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Team Notes week 7 2023
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss suggested, when the clock ran out on the Cardinals' 26-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Arizona's red zone struggles weren't the only reason for the Cardinals' fifth defeat of the season.
But their issues inside the 20 were a major factor in why the game got out of hand.
"I think that's what the game ultimately came down to," Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs said.
Arizona was 0-for-3 on trips to the red zone, gaining a combined nine yards. The first two ended with field goals and the third ended when Dobbs threw an interception on Arizona's only red zone play of the drive.
Three trips. Nine yards. Six points. One pick.
"Anytime those are four-point plays, so the points are at a premium there," head coach Jonathan Gannon said. "We got to get back in the lab and make sure we're putting our guys in position to make plays and all 11 just got to do a better job."
Touchdowns on all three trips to the red zone could've changed the outcome, but the what-if game could be played until next Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. However, an additional 15 points, giving the Cardinals 24 on the day, could've gone a long way in getting Arizona its second win of the season.
"It's very frustrating," wide receiver Marquise Brown said. "Guys deal with it in different ways. You just got to stay into it, keep trusting the plan and just keep trying."
As the Cardinals sit at 1-5, Brown said the Cardinals still trust the plan.
"I feel like our plan is good every week," he said.
The Cardinals' first trip in the red zone was set up after they recovered a fumble from Rams punt returner Austin Trammell early in the second quarter at the 17-yard line. Dobbs threw to Brown on all three plays. The first two were incomplete passes and the third went for 3 yards.
Late in the second quarter, Arizona went the opposite direction.
The Cardinals ran it three times -- one by wide receiver Rondale Moore and twice by Keaontay Ingram, who started in place of the injured James Conner. Ingram had an 8-yard run that moved the Cardinals inside the 10 but both drives stalled.
Then the third trip to the red zone, which began and ended with the first play of the fourth quarter, resulted in an interception. Dobbs missed a wide-open Moore, opting for veteran tight end Zach Ertz instead. Dobbs threw slightly behind Ertz and was picked off by Rams linebacker Christian Rozeboom. The Rams turned that interception into a 12-play, 88-yard drive that ended in a touchdown to go up 23-9 with 8:19 left in the game.
"They did a good job on scheme, kind of taking away some shots that we had up," Dobbs said. "And then, two, I just feel like execution. It starts with me in the red zone because that's such an important area of the field. You work so hard to get down there, man, like, you can't stall out.
"So, just simple execution, starting with me, ensuring that we're in the right play, making good decisions with the football and then that will spread to the rest of the team."
Through six games, the Cardinals have now scored a touchdown on 50 percent of their red zone appearances, which ranks tied for 20th in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Overall, they're scoring in any form on 81.3 percent of their red zone drives. However, the Cardinals are attacking the red zone more through the air than they are on the ground.
Arizona has a red zone passing percentage of 62.2, which ranks fifth in the NFL, and a red zone rushing percentage of 37.8, which is 28th.
How do the Cardinals fix their red zone issues?
That needs to be a focal point for the coaching staff heading into Sunday's game in Seattle. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Arizona ranks sixth in the NFL with 141 yards rushing per game and had 130 yards on the ground against the Rams. They're averaging 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks second in the league. Dobbs ran for a team-high 47 yards against the Rams while Ingram added 40 yards on 10 carries.
That said, PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes the Cardinals' backfield is split without Conner.
Arizona followed an early-season trend of playing Ingram as the backup on early downs and Emari Demercado as the backup on late downs.
Ingram ran the ball well enough, tallying 40 yards on 10 carries.
Damien Williams was signed to the practice squad 10 days ago and was elevated to the active roster, beating out Tony Jones Jr. (claimed off waivers last week) and Corey Clement (practice squad).
Williams looked OK in his first playing time at running back, but Darren Urban of the team's official website believes Ingram looked the best he has all season.
Both Ingram and Williams out-snapped Demercado by halftime, but because the Cardinals were playing from behind in the second half, Demercado ultimately got more playing time.
Jahnke went on to point out the Cardinals' next three games are all against teams with winning records and between average and great production against the run. "Ingram will see the most touches going forward, but he should only be started by fantasy managers who desperately need to replace injured players," Jahnke added. ...
Trey McBride appeared to take over as the Cardinals' top tight end. He caught four passes for 62 yards, both of which tied for the team lead and Urban believes it'll be interesting to see how he continues to progress.
The playing time is more revealing as Ertz played less in both 12 personnel and 11 personnel.
As Jahnke notes, McBride had played most of the 12 personnel snaps, with Ertz splitting time with Geoff Swaim. This week, McBride and Swaim each took nine snaps compared to four by Ertz.
The major change happened in 11 personnel, where McBride took 30 of the 60 snaps compared to 27 by Ertz.
There was a pretty even split throughout the game, regardless of down, but the Cardinals were more balanced with McBride while they were more pass-heavy with Ertz.
McBride can be picked up in leagues where someone is looking for a high-upside option for late in the season. In shallower leagues, Ertz can be dropped, given this role. ...
Matt Prater had three more field goals, moving him to 18th all-time in points scored in league history. He also had his 74th career field goal of at least 50 yards, extending his own NFL record.
Finally. ... It sounds like Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is getting closer to his return to play after tearing his ACL last December.
Gannon said in a Monday radio interview with Arizona Sports 98.7 that Murray is doing a "good job" in his rehab, adding he liked the week that the quarterback had.
"We've got to kind of see here the next couple days, see how tonight goes and tomorrow goes, and again, though, we're not rushing that," Gannon said, via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic, who noted that Gannon was hinting "very strongly" that Murray is making enough progress to be designated to return. "We're making sure that he feels good about going out there, but he's trending in the right direction."
Once the Cardinals designate Murray to return, he'll have a 21-day practice window to be activated to the 53-man roster. It's likely Murray would need at least a week of practice -- if not more -- before he's ready to play.
Arizona plays at Seattle, vs. Baltimore, and at Cleveland over the next three weeks. The team's bye isn't until Week 14 in December.
Gannon said the team wants "to make sure that before the mental gets put on him of playing football, to make sure the physical is right.
"Just all the different things that he does as a player and what he wants to be able to do playing the position, to make sure we can simulate that as much as we can without being out there playing football but that he feels comfortable with everything that he's going to need to be able to do to function."
Still, Gannon feels like Murray is mentally ready to start the on-field portion of his return.
"But you've got to play football, too," Gannon said. "We understand there's going to be a little of a learning curve, a new system for him. He hasn't taken a snap in this offense. I like the plan with kind of how we have it structured and the work that he's been putting in during practice, in meetings, the extra time spent in the morning and at night.
"I mean, this guy is a competitor. He's doing a lot to get himself as mentally and physically ready as he can before he goes out there and practices. And I really appreciate him for that because he puts the work in, I know that."
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Emari Demercado, Michael Carter
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Charles Odum reported it, Desmond Ridder's second three-turnover game in his last three starts left the second-year quarterback open for renewed questions about his inconsistency and even his job security as the Atlanta Falcons' starter.
Ridder threw three interceptions and also committed key grounding and delay penalties which hurt the Falcons in their 24-16 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
"Obviously, that's tough right there to go out there and put up that showing," Ridder said. "We had plenty of opportunities to go down and put points on the board, plenty of opportunities when you're moving the ball and getting things going. Coming up short, that's tough for us."
The Falcons' mistakes were not all on Ridder. Head coach Arthur Smith was second-guessed for his decision to call for a 2-point play early in the fourth quarter after Ridder's second touchdown pass cut Washington's lead to 24-16. The play failed.
Smith acknowledged there were other operational breakdowns, including the need to use a timeout on the Falcons' final possession after Ridder stopped the clock by downing the ball. Ridder then threw his final interception on a third-and-1 pass when Washington linebacker Jamin Davis cut in front of running back Bijan Robinson.
"Some of our operations weren't very clean," Smith said. "We'll get that cleaned up. That's on all of us. We have to get better."
The interceptions again left Ridder in the spotlight. He endured another three-turnover game -- two interceptions, including a pick-6, and a lost fumble in Atlanta's 23-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Oct. 1.
Ridder had strong answers for his critics last week when he passed for a career-high 329 yards with a touchdown without an interception, and added a 7-yard scoring run in a 21-19 home win over Houston.
Sunday's struggles looked like a regression for Ridder as the Falcons (3-3) fell back to .500.
Smith stuck with Ridder against the Commanders and still hasn't used veteran backup Taylor Heinicke in a regular-season game. Smith had a quick answer when asked if Ridder showed panic by throwing an interception following a delay penalty in the fourth quarter.
"No, it's not panic," Smith said. "There's so much that goes into it, so many logistics. There's one thing Des is not going to do is panic. That's not what it is. It was miscommunication. It happened."
Ridder also said there was a communication breakdown on his pass intended for Drake London that was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste.
"Drake turned one way, I threw it the other," Ridder said.
There was no consolation to be found in Ridder's second straight 300-yard game in what had been a run-dominant offense. Ridder completed 28 of 47 passes for 307 yards with touchdown passes to tight ends Jonnu Smith and Kyle Pitts.
Through six games, Ridder has six touchdown passes with six interceptions. It is an unsustainable pace for a team hoping to end its streak of five straight losing seasons and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
"What I think is great for this team is in that game there's a lot of things to learn from," Ridder said. "There's a lot of things that went wrong in there that we have done right in the past that we just did wrong right there. There are things to learn from that I think will only make us better."
We'll see what those lessons learned are and how they can be applied as the Falcons embark on a two-game road trip, starting with the Buccaneers (3-2) on Sunday for a Week 7 divisional showdown at Raymond James Stadium. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Robinson ran a season-high 45 routes against the Commanders.
As Rotoworld notes, the 45 routes run by Robinson are the second most by any running back through the first five weeks of the season, with Kyren Williams' 48 routes in Week 2 topping the list.
For a back who is splitting touches with Tyler Allgeier, this high-volume of routes will give Robinson and his fantasy managers somewhat of an out when things aren't happening for him on the ground. Robinson had never run more than 33 routes in any of his first five games, although we can't overlook this performance coming in a game where the Falcons trailed by double-digits for much of the second half. ...
London finished with nine receptions for 125 yards, which are both career highs. His 98 career receptions fall just three short of Julio Jones' franchise record for most receptions in a player's first 23 games. ...
Pitts scored his first touchdown of the season and the fourth of his career, but it was his second-straight game with a 53-55 percent snap rate. His only other game with that few snaps over the last two seasons is the one where he suffered a season-ending injury last season.
Smith scored his touchdown on a 2-yard reception in the fourth quarter. It was his first touchdown since Oct. 3, 2021, when playing for the New England Patriots. A total of 31 games passed in between the two end-zone moments. Smith now has 18 career receiving touchdowns. ...
Van Jefferson mad his Falcons debut and largely competed with KhaDarel Hodge for snaps in two-receiver sets. According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, they both played 18 snaps each out of 12 and 21 personnel while London played 49, and Mack Hollins and Scott Miller combined for 19.
Hollins and Miller joined London as the primary receivers in 11 personnel.
The Falcons were playing from behind most of the game, so they used more 11 personnel than usual. It wouldn't be surprising if Jefferson is already second on the team in snaps in a closer game or if the Falcons are winning.
For the record, Jefferson didn't catch either of his targets. Even if he is on the field more often for Atlanta, that might not make him fantasy-relevant this season. ...
Cordarrelle Patterson's role in the offense has slowly but surely increased, but he's lining up at receiver on most of his snaps. ...
Why did Arthur Smith go for two in the fourth quarter?
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggests, it was an odd decision for Smith to go for two after the Falcons scored to cut the Commanders' lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter. His defense had been playing well and had Atlanta kicked the PAT, then tied the game later, it would have had all the momentum.
Smith has shown he has no problem being aggressive -- it helped the Falcons beat the Packers earlier this season -- but this one was a curious decision considering the situation.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Ryan Mink of the team's official website put it, "The Ravens were playing in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but they didn't want to see as much kicking as they did Sunday. ..."
Londoners were treated to a heavy day of booting from Justin Tucker, who knocked six field goals through the uprights -- tying his single-game career high set in 2013 in Detroit, when Tucker won the game with a 61-yarder.
It didn't come down to that this time.
The Ravens won 24-18, but it was tighter than it should have been for a team that piled up 360 offensive yards to the Titans' 233. Baltimore has scored just one touchdown in each of the past two games.
Baltimore went 1-of-6 in the red zone, though it was really more like 1-of-5 because one came with only enough time to kick a field goal at the end of the first half after the Ravens recovered a muffed punt.
Still, it left a postgame locker room that was happy with the win but not thrilled with the performance.
"A lot of frustration from everyone on the offense," left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "We know we're going to have to score in those situations to be the team we know we can be. We can fix it and we have the guys to fix it. We have to hold each other accountable."
It wasn't long ago that the Ravens were being lauded for their red-zone success. Through the first four weeks, they had the NFL's No. 1 unit in that regard, scoring touchdowns on 80 percent of their red-zone trips.
Lamar Jackson joked that Ravens reporters jinxed the offense after pointing to its early-season success.
"We do a great job with driving the ball down the field, but it's like every time we get there, it's like we're just kicking field goals, [and then] it's up to 'Tuck,'" Jackson said. "But we don't need that. [We have to] protect the ball. The biggest emphasis was we caught the ball this week. We drove the ball down the field. We protected it, except for that one interception, but we have to punch it in. That's going to help our defense out a lot, and they're doing a great job protecting us."
Dropped passes and fumbles doomed the Ravens in their two losses to the Colts and Steelers this season, so while the offense didn't have a banner day, it at least didn't beat itself.
Though the Titans defense entered the game ranked 15thin the league, it was No. 4 in red-zone defense. Tennessee was blitz heavy in the red zone.
On Baltimore's five true red-zone series, they ran the ball 13 times and threw it just three times, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Zay Flowers on an extended play. Jackson's number was often called, including on third down on the 1-yard line in the second quarter, but he was stuffed for a 4-yard loss.
"The [Titans] defense is pretty great," Jackson said. "They weren't giving us [any] real chances of making passes. They played great. I wasn't trying to run the ball, but it was what it was. We still finished with the field goals."
Head coach John Harbaugh said the "best way to put it in the end zone and the red zone is to run it in."
"We haven't been as successful the last two weeks as we were the first [four] weeks. That's kind of how it works. It's a week-to-week league," Harbaugh said.
"We have a quarterback that can do a lot of things in the red zone, [who] can make plays in the red zone. We have receivers that can do it. We're capable of it. I am really thankful Justin [Tucker]. He made all those kicks. It's probably fun for the crowd here to see, but we need to score [touchdowns]. That could have been a much more comfortable game for us if we'd done that."
Tucker did have a good time getting so much action in front of an international audience. He connected from 41, 28, 23, 29, 20 and 36 yards, respectively. It was the first time in his career that he hit four field goals in the first half of a game.
"It was pretty cool to feel love from the fans. Obviously, this is a place in the world where they love kickers of balls," Tucker said. "Being able to put on just a little bit of a show for them was a lot of fun."
Next up, the Ravens return home to host the Lions on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Gus Edwards managed just 41 yards on 16 carries. Baltimore's difficulty running the ball with its non-quarterbacks contributed to its problems in punching the ball into the end zone.
"We were running into some big fronts there," Harbaugh said. "We tried to spread them out. They didn't cooperate quite as much in terms of spreading out."
The Ravens activated Keaton Mitchell from injured reserve, but he didn't enter the rotation in London.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke reported, Justice Hill started the game for Baltimore, unlike in the past three games, but the rotation between him and Edwards was similar to past games. Both players saw significant stretches of plays before letting the other take over.
Edwards handled more rushing attempts, but Hill scored more fantasy points thanks to his work in the passing game.
Mitchell's activation meant both Melvin Gordon III and Kenyan Drake remained on the practice squad. Drake was released on Tuesday with Mitchell overtaking him on the depth chart.
Per Jahnke, Hill should be on fantasy rosters for those who are hurting for running back depth. Mitchell is worth a stash in deeper leagues in case he emerges at some point this season. ..
After a drop-filled mess of a performance against Pittsburgh, Baltimore's receivers were solid against the Titans.
According to Rotoworld, Odell Beckham Jr. played on 29-of-71 offensive snaps. The resulting 41 percent snap share was his lowest of the season -- including games he exited due to injury.
The veteran receiver was presumably playing at full strength after being removed from the team's injury report, but was behind Flowers, Nelson Agholor and Rashod Bateman in regards to snaps and routes run (16).
He still managed four targets on the afternoon, but for a $15 million receiver, we'd expect a lot more from OBJ than what we've seen so far. ...
Finally. ... One of the major talking points all last week was Baltimore's decision to arrive on Monday and spend the entire week in London. That was a different approach than the Ravens took in 2017, when they didn't depart Baltimore until Thursday before the game and were soundly defeated by Jacksonville, 44-7.
On Sunday, the Ravens jumped to an 18-3 lead and got the winning result they were seeking. Harbaugh was much happier with the result of this trip across the pond.
"It's a great feeling," Harbaugh said. "It's better than the alternative, by far. I can tell you that."
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
It took Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offense nearly three quarters to find their rhythm. Turns out, that was just enough in pulling out a 14-9 win against the offensively challenged and under-manned New York Giants.
"We're a much better team than we showed tonight, and showed last week," Allen lamented in reflecting back to Buffalo's jet-lagged start in a 25-20 loss to Jacksonville at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London last weekend. "We got to figure out why that is, and how to get ourselves out of a funk early on."
After being shut out in the first half for the first time since 2019, Allen and the offense found some semblance of efficiency in overseeing two lengthy touchdown drives, capped by Quintin Morris' 15-yard touchdown catch with 3:48 remaining.
As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow suggested, it was barely enough in a ground-it-out, yard-by-yard chippy and occasionally sloppy thriller that wasn't decided until the final play, and on an untimed down.
Buffalo overcame two first-half turnovers -- receiver Gabe Davis' lost fumble and an Allen interception -- which led to the Giants pulling ahead on Gano hitting 29- and 43-yard field goals. And the Bills won for just the sixth time when being shutout through three quarters -- and first since 10-7 win at Philadelphia in December 1993.
Buffalo didn't score until six seconds into the fourth quarter, when Allen capped a 17-play, 89-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Harty.
Allen finished 19 of 30 for 169 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception.
What does the Bills' offense need to correct?
After scoring 37-plus points in three straight games earlier this season, the Bills have been held to 20 points or fewer in two straight.
As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg noted, there isn't just one problem to fix.
While Sunday's second half was a big improvement (Allen completed all but one of his second-half passes), the first half was a mess as Allen struggled with pressure (0-of-4 under duress) and going downfield (1-of-6 for 28 yards and an interception on throws with 15 or more air yards).
In fact, slow starts are becoming a problem for Buffalo as the offense was held scoreless through three quarters for the first time since Allen's rookie season (2018 vs. the Packers). The Bills' franchise-best streak of 60 straight halves with points was snapped just a week after scoring only seven points in the first three quarters against the Jaguars.
From an NFL perspective, Buffalo needs to get more players involved. Receiver Stefon Diggs had 16 targets, and everyone else combined had 12.
From a fantasy perspective, Diggs investors are fine with this.
Diggs recorded a franchise record fourth-straight 100-plus yard receiving game, catching 10 passes for exactly 100 yards.
Of his 36 career 100-plus yard games in the regular season, it's the first time the star wideout has finished with exactly 100 yards.
Allen looked at Diggs' way repeatedly Sunday night, targeting him 16 times total. According to Next Gen Stats, Diggs was targeted on 53.3 percent of his routes, the highest target rate in a game this season (min. 20 routes).
"He does a good job of getting open and making plays with the ball in his hands," Allen said. "When you have a receiver as talented as him and he's your first read in a lot of concepts -- and he's open -- you can't really pass him up."
Through six games, Diggs has gone over the century mark in five of them. He had seven 100-plus yard receiving games all of last season.
While Diggs was the biggest beneficiary on offense, Allen believes the offense is at its best when he can spread the ball around. The flow of the game and the matchups prevented Allen from doing that on Sunday.
"I do think that we're a better team when we are able to spread the ball around and get everybody involved," he said. "It's kind of dictated throughout each week with the flow of the game based on how they're playing us and sometimes it's gonna be like that."
Buffalo will look to make the necessary fixes and to get their offense back on track when they visit New England this Sunday. The Bills have won four straight, including playoffs, and six of their past seven against the division rival Patriots. ...
On the injury front. ... Allen injured his right shoulder during Sunday night's game. X-rays were "normal" following the game, but he underwent further testing Monday.
Head coach Sean McDermott said Allen is sore but will be "all right."
"He's day to day, and we'll see where that goes," McDermott said Monday, via Matthew Bove of WKBW.
McDermott was asked whether there is any chance Allen misses Sunday's game against the Patriots.
"I'm not going to go into that," McDermott said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. ...
Running back Damien Harris has been released from a Buffalo-area hospital and has neck pain, "but otherwise is going to be fine," a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Monday.
Harris was taken off the field in an ambulance and transported to the hospital after suffering a neck injury.
Harris was released from the hospital on Monday. He is in the concussion protocol.
Dalton Kincaid missed this game with a concussion, resulting in Dawson Knox being the clear primary tight end for Buffalo. He only caught three passes for 17 yards.
Allen injured his right shoulder during Sunday night's game. X-rays were "normal" following the game, but he underwent further testing Monday.
I'll have more on Allen, Harris and Kincaid via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, the Bills have used James Cook significantly in their clear victories but have gotten their veterans more involved when they are playing from behind.
That remained true in this game. Latavius Murray took nearly as many carries as Cook and was used on third downs. It was Murray who took the snaps that Harris would have seen.
Murray is worth picking up off the waiver wire, as he's getting used in goal-line situations and on passing downs. His upside could be higher than Cook's because of the goal-line work, even if Cook has generally played better as a runner. ...
Also according to Jahnke, the Bills continued to use Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield more than Harty, but it was Harty who scored a touchdown in this game.
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Damien Harris
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Rookie quarterback Bryce Young seemed to take Sunday's 42-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins harder than any of the others, as the NFL's only winless team heads into its bye week.
According to ESPN.com's David Newton, the top pick of the 2023 NFL draft didn't look at being up 14-0 in the first quarter as a "consolation prize" for a team off to its worst start since the 1998 Panthers opened 0-7.
He didn't seem pleased that he had no turnovers for the first time in his five starts.
"We're all competitors," said Young, who is 0-5 as the starter, missing the Week 3 loss at Seattle with an ankle injury. "It builds up. It sucks where we at. ... Again it's fresh and it's not where we want to be.
"We're in a tough place and it's difficult but there is no locker room, no group, I would rather be here with, no group that I have more confidence in to dig ourselves out of this."
Young, who was 23-4 as the starter at Alabama, is in pretty good company when it comes to quarterbacks who were top picks and got off to at least an 0-5 start. Of the quarterbacks drafted No. 1 since 1967, he's now the eighth.
Troy Aikman started 0-11 for the Dallas Cowboys, Jared Goff 0-7 for the Los Angeles Rams, Eli Manning 0-6 for the New York Giants, Tim Couch 0-6 for the Cleveland Browns, Alex Smith 0-5 for San Francisco 49ers, Trevor Lawrence 0-5 for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Vinny Testaverde 0-5 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Aikman went on to become a three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer. Manning became a two-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP.
Young is a long way from that, but Carolina outside linebacker Brian Burns couldn't say enough about the way Young has handled the beginning of this season because of his maturity.
"I don't think any other rookie could handle it like he's been handling it," he said. "Things may not be going his way, especially during the game, but he continues to keep his voice and keep being a leader at such an early point in his career."
Veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen, who caught 11 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, agreed.
"He's exactly who you would want in your locker room despite the record," he said. "The way that he approaches the game, the way that he handles himself, the way he just continues to try to get better and tries to make people around him better.
"He's the right guy for us and we're excited about going back to work and continue to get on the same page."
Young had arguably his best game as a pro at Hard Rock Stadium. He completed 23 of 38 pass attempts for 217 yards and a touchdown for a QBR of 47.4.
He still ranks last in the league in QBR at 31.6, but Sunday's effort raised that from 29.7 in his first four starts.
Young didn't take much solace from his fast start in which he completed eight of his first nine attempts to temporarily shock the home crowd.
"It's good to jump out to an early lead but we see what the scoreboard finished with, so it's not a consolation prize," he said. "We have to be able to sustain it. I think it showed what we're capable of and there is positive there and we have to find way to keep building on that and keep improving and then cut out the bad that came."
Head coach Frank Reich said Young has gotten better every week.
"I really like the direction that he's going," he said. "The offense overall has to be better, but here are some positive things there."
Reich believes the bye comes at a good time for Young and the team to reset and get healthy. Running back/wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was added to a long injury list Sunday with a right fibula injury that had him on crutches and in a walking boot after the game.
Shenault played a role in helping the offense start to develop an identity Sunday that it hadn't had before with balance in the run and pass game.
Replacing starting running back Miles Sanders (shoulder), Chuba Hubbard's 88 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries gave some life to a run game that had been almost non-existent and earned him the right to keep the job.
For Hubbard, it was also his best game since last December when he had 125 yards against the Lions. And while he was encouraged by the numbers, he also didn't lose sight of the bottom line.
"I feel like every single week we've taken a step," Hubbard said. "But, obviously, the goal is to win the game. That's why we're here. That's why we work so hard. I mean, you could throw for 1,000 yards, you could run for 1,000 yards, you could break records, whatever. But if you don't get the win that doesn't really matter. . . .
"I feel like we've been taking a step in that direction every single week. The O-line did a great job, coach called the great runs and everyone's just running hard."
Still, nobody was satisfied.
"We have to earn the right to make it consistent," Young said. "We have to earn the right to make sure that's not a flash, it's not a good couple series. You have to earn the right to make that be who we are and make that be our identity."
Thielen, for one, is glad to hear Young becoming a more vocal and emotional leader.
"You don't really see a person's true colors until they're going through some adversity," he said. "So for him to handle the adversity our team is going through the way he has, man, those are the guys you want to fight for, those are the guys you want to play with and those are the guys that are going to have success in the future."
Meanwhile, Reich is turning over the playcalling for Young to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, he confirmed Monday.
Brown, 37, is in his first year as an NFL offensive coordinator. He came to Carolina from the Rams, where he was the assistant head coach in addition to coaching tight ends and running backs the past couple of seasons.
His first game of calling plays for the 0-6 Panthers, the only winless team in the NFL, will be an Oct. 29 home game against the Texans after the bye week. That game will feature a matchup of the top two picks in this year's NFL draft as Young faces Houston's C.J. Stroud.
Reich has adamant from the day he took the job that he was best fitted to call plays for Young, the top pick of the draft, but that one day he would turn the duties over. ...
A few final notes. ... If Hubbard's goal was to prove he could be an every-down back, he did everything he could. He played 53 of the 69 snaps (77 percent), and responded with solid production. It's a heavy workload for an offense that's going to live in three-wide personnel most of the time, and he made the most of it.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke suggests, Hubbard should be a priority waiver wire target in any league where he's available. He will not only be a fantasy starter for as long as Sanders is out, but he could remain the starter even when Sanders is back. ...
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, Thielen has been everything the Panthers could have hoped for and more with 57 receptions in the past five games for 497 yards and four touchdowns. Thielen has caught at least 11 passes in three of the team's past four games and has touchdowns in four of the past five games.
Now Thielen just needs a running mate at wide receiver. It's time for DJ Chark, Jonathan Mingo and Terrace Marshall to step up. ...
The Panthers signed tight end Hayden Hurst away from Cincinnati in the offseason figuring he would be a key player in the passing game. But since catching five passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in the team's season opener against Atlanta, Hurst has been a non-factor with only nine catches for 75 yards and no TDs in the past five games.
This past weekend it seemed the Panthers were turning more to Tommy Tremble at tight end.
Tremble had a bigger workload and also produced, with 45 percent of the snaps, two catches for 25 yards, and the best hurdle of the day.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Justin Fields has a dislocated right thumb and is doubtful to play against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 7, coach Matt Eberflus said Monday.
Fields suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Bears' 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. X-rays were negative, but he had an MRI on Monday.
Eberflus said Fields wanted to come back into the game but could not grip the ball to throw it. The 25-year-old quarterback finished 6-of-10 passing for 58 yards and an interception against Minnesota's aggressive blitz. He also rushed eight times for 46 yards.
"There's no timetable right now," Eberflus said. "It's really going to come down to grip strength and the natural swelling that occurs with this injury, so we should know more at the end of this week."
Eberflus said he did not get any feedback on what the MRI revealed and reiterated that Fields' ability to grip the ball will be paramount in determining next steps.
He gave similar answers when asked if the MRI showed any structural damage and if Fields would need surgery. The injury adds another wrinkle to the Bears' long-term decision when it comes to the quarterback position.
Fields is 6-25 as a starter over three years. The Bears have to decide after the season whether to exercise the fifth-year option for 2025.
Fields struggled through the first three games, then delivered two of his best performances as a passer before a rough outing against the Vikings. He was 6 of 10 passing for 58 yards with an interception and was sacked four times.
Rookie QB Tyson Bagent, who holds the NCAA record for all-time touchdown passes (159) and is the Division II record-holder for all-time passing yards (17,034) and total touchdowns (171), will play in place of Fields if he is officially ruled out for Sunday.
Bagent signed with Chicago as an undrafted free agent in May and beat out current Browns quarterback P.J. Walker, who was with the Bears this offseason, for a spot on the initial 53-man roster during cutdown day.
"We believe in Tyson," Eberflus said. "We obviously had him at No. 2 for a reason and we feel strong about that."
Bagent's NFL regular-season debut was soured three plays in after taking over for Fields, when he was strip-sacked by Vikings safety Josh Metellus. Minnesota linebacker Jordan Hicks scooped up Bagent's fumble and ran 46 yards down the home team sideline for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 19-6 lead.
"A little bit of miscommunication, but at the end of the day, I've got to keep two hands on the ball," Bagent said. "I've got to protect the ball -- that's a big job of mine when I'm out there. Gotta keep two hands on the ball and be more efficient in that area."
Three drives later, Bagent marched the Bears 77 yards downfield in 4:56 and executed a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown to cut Minnesota's lead to 19-13. On Chicago's final possession, with a chance to lead a game-winning drive, Bagent underthrew Bears wide receiver DJ Moore after completing his seven previous passes and was intercepted.
Bagent finished 10-of-14 for 83 yards and an interception.
"I thought he started out, was not great at first, but again that's everybody," Eberflus said. "That's 11 guys in there operating. But I think once he got settled down, he put that drive together and then you could see what he can do. He could do off-schedule stuff. He can escape. He made a few nice throws there, and his mobility is good. I thought his timing was good on a lot of those passes that he threw. So I thought he looked good."
Prior to Sunday's loss, Bagent had only appeared in limited action during Chicago's three preseason games. He is the only Division II quarterback currently on a 53-man roster league-wide.
"I'm obviously very confident in myself," Bagent said of his mindset in the event he starts against the Raiders. "Nothing changes for me. Since day one I was preparing as if I was go to play the whole game. That's kind of how I approach the game. I like to know what's going on at all times. Nothing is really going to change for this week. Back to the drawing board and get ready for Vegas this coming week."
That said, it's not an ideal spot for the Bears.
As ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell noted, even allowing for what Brock Purdy did as Mr. Irrelevant last season, there's no track record of rookie undrafted free agents succeeding as quarterbacks during their debut seasons. The only undrafted quarterbacks who have thrown 100 pass attempts as a rookie since the merger are Chad Hutchinson, Matt Moore, Matt McGloin, David Blough and Devlin Hodges.
They combined to throw more interceptions (35) than touchdown passes (27) while averaging just 6.5 yards per attempt.
For now, have to hope Fields' thumb doesn't require more significant treatment. Until he returns, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will have to get creative in tailoring the offense to Bagent -- starting with Sunday's game against the Raiders. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Bears -- who led the NFL in rushing yards last season -- have found consistency in the ground game lately, including 162 yards against the Vikings. In their previous two games, the Bears recorded 171 yards against Denver and 178 against Washington.
Running back D'Onta Foreman led the attack Sunday with 65 yards on 15 carries, after previously playing in just one of the first five games this season. Darrynton Evans also stepped up and produced 32 yards on nine carries after signing with the Bears Monday.
Before exiting the game with an injury, Fields rushed eight times for 46 yards.
Remember, the Bears were without their top three running backs: Khalil Herbert landed on injured reserve last week while Roschon Johnson and Travis Homer were both inactive with injuries.
Johnson, who is coming off a concussion, is expected to be back this upcoming week and should be the starter (I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days).
Foreman should be the backup, but it's possible Chicago goes with Evans as the second back instead. ...
Darnell Mooney recorded his longest play from scrimmage this season, hauling in a 39-yard deep ball from Fields in the second quarter. The explosive play was the start of the Bears' second scoring drive.
Equanimeous St. Brown had served as the Bears third wide receiver since moving on from Chase Claypool, but he landed on injured reserve this past week. Fourth-round rookie Tyler Scott took over as the third receiver, but he was held to one catch on three targets.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy noted, when Joe Burrow couldn't get the ball in the end zone in the second half Sunday, the Cincinnati defense made sure the Seattle Seahawks didn't either.
The Bengals defense intercepted Geno Smith twice. And they also twice stopped the Seahawks on fourth down from inside the Cincinnati 10 in the last 2:08 of the game to preserve a 17-13 win.
The Bengals won two in a row for the first time this season and improved to 3-3 going into their bye week.
"It's better to win ugly than lose pretty," head coach Zac Taylor said. "That's the first thing that hit me when I walked off the field. At times it felt ugly, especially on offense, but again our defense stepped up and made some big plays for us that allowed us to get out of there."
Cincinnati scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game but punted six times, giving Seattle the late chances.
Still, Burrow got another win to keep the Bengals in the hunt at 3-3 going into the bye week, raising his record to 27-20-1 and 15-8 at Paycor.
Happy with the win, but not with the offense after he sifted Seattle for 143 yards in the first half and then threw for 42 in the second, when they converted one third down.
"There were definitely opportunities that we had that we didn't capitalize on, but we got the win. It's a lot easier to fix things when you're 3-3 than if you had lost this one. So, I'm never going to apologize for a win," Burrow said. "Not where we want to be (offensively), not where we want to be. We've had moments, but we just have to put it all together. So, we'll evaluate this week and go from there."
The Bengals had 214 total yards, the fewest in a Burrow win.
Not pretty, but think Denver two years ago when they got a huge hardscrabble 15-10 win with Burrow throwing for 157 yards in a game that vaulted them on a Super Bowl run.
"We'll take it. Any way we can find a win, we're going to do it and we're going to be happy about it," said Taylor. "And that doesn't mean that there's not a lot we can improve on offense. I'm sure there's going to be some things that we're going to improve on defense as well. But it's a lot easier to make those improvements after you win."
The Bengals will try get everybody healthy and try to reset during the week off because the going will be tough. The Bengals will come out of the bye and play at San Francisco on Oct. 29 before hosting Buffalo and Houston.
Other notes of interest. ... Off his endorsement from 7-11, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase had 80 yards on six catches, all but one in the first half. After shouting out to his new partner, he gave a glimpse of what the Bengals offense is going to be focused on during the bye.
"It's not disappointing," Chase said. "We just hold ourselves to a standard and we've got to execute. As good of an offense as we have, we just have to stay on top of that and not have mental errors like we did today. I think we had a couple of those. I know I had one today. Simple things like that will take us a long way. ..."
Running back Joe Mixon had a season-low 38 yards on 12 carries, but he's now the third-leading rusher in Bengals history as he moved past Rudi Johnson behind Corey Dillon and James Brooks. Also Sunday, he moved past Pete Johnson and now has the third most carries in club history behind Dillon and Rudi Johnson. ...
Worth noting. ... Mixon has rushed for fewer than 70 yards in five of six games this season. ...
Two gamers played Sunday even though they were hurting. Wide receiver Tee Higgins (rib) had four targets, two catches, and 20 yards. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie didn't start in a game rookie DJ Turner started and appeared to take the bulk of the reps.
"It's tough. Chido just managed through the week. He repped as much as he could," Taylor said. "And so, then it's still unknown. It's still bothersome. He really played through something today. As did Tee. To both those guys, I'm appreciative of what they decided to do for us. A lot of guys could have just said, 'No, I'm going to wait through the bye week,' and Chido and Tee are two of our most competitive guys we've got. And so really, really thankful we've got guys like that that that helped contribute to the win. ..."
Higgins played in just over 50 percent of offensive snaps while dealing with his rib injury.
Taylor's not sure of the severity of Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.'s groin injury that kept him out of most of the second half when Cody Ford took his place …
Rookie receiver Andrei Iosivas' touchdown grab was the first of his NFL career, and it happened on his 24th birthday. Iosivas was a sixth-round Bengals draft pick out of Princeton. After the catch, Burrow went to the officials to ask for the ball that he gave to the young receiver to keep.
"It's right up there," Iosivas said when asked if it was the best birthday of his life. "I had a couple of good ones as a kid. A TD on your birthday is comparable."
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Deshaun Watson is dealing with a deep rotator cuff contusion that has made it difficult for him to drive the football when he throws, but there is a belief that the Browns quarterback could be ready to play as soon as this Sunday against the Colts, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
"Hopefully he'll be back next week," one source told Schefter.
"He could be back next week," another source said.
Although a Week 7 return is both realistic and possible, the Browns want to make sure that Watson's injury does not develop into a problem that lingers throughout the season and don't want the three-time Pro Bowler to play again until he can throw without pain, which he has been unable to do since he suffered the injury in Week 3 against the Titans.
Tests have shown that there's no structural damage in Watson's shoulder, but the Browns wants their franchise quarterback to be functional.
"Any injury ... you have to be able to do your job, you have to be able to function and do all the things that are asked of you to play your position," head coach Kevin Stefanski said last week. "A quarterback -- when you have this type of injury, you have to make sure you're able to drive the football, make all the throws."
With Watson sidelined for a second straight game Sunday, the Browns turned to P.J. Walker, who was promoted to the active roster Saturday after signing to Cleveland's practice squad Aug. 30.
Meanwhile, as San Francisco's Jake Moody lined up for a potential winning field goal with six seconds left, Walker made a prediction to teammate Amari Cooper sitting next to him on the bench.
"I told him he was going to miss it," Walker said.
When Moody pushed his 41-yard kick to the right, it gave Cleveland a shocking 19-17 win over previously unbeaten San Francisco and capped a crazy week for Walker, who went from practice squad QB to starter in a matter of days.
Walker shook off an interception in the fourth quarter and made just enough plays -- with a little luck thrown in -- to set up Cleveland kicker Dustin Hopkins for two field goals in the final 3:21 that lifted the Browns (3-2) to a victory few thought possible.
It was Cleveland's biggest win since Watson became their quarterback -- and he had nothing to do with it.
Walker certainly proved to be at least capable of making big throws when he needs to.
"He battled," Stefanski said. "He's going to tell you he wishes he had a couple of plays back like all quarterbacks do. That's kind of what we talk about. We're striving for perfection, but it's hard to attain it.
"But he made some throws. He made some plays. He ran the show. So that's what he does. He's a battler. He's a tough kid."
And for the second year in a row, Walker pulled off an improbable win. Last season, in one of his five starts for Carolina, he guided the Panthers to a 21-3 victory over Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
It's been a wild ride of late for Walker, who built his resume with a stint in the XFL. He was released by Chicago during the preseason, signed by the Browns and the 28-year-old spent his first month in Cleveland running the scout team as the No. 3 quarterback behind Watson and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
When it became clear Watson wouldn't be able to play against the 49ers, the Browns decided not to go with Thompson-Robinson, who had struggled so badly in his pro debut two weeks ago, and moved Walker into the backup role instead.
Still, it wasn't until the middle of the week that Walker got his first practice reps with Cleveland's starting wide receivers. Walker made sure he had the game plan down pat, and he spent the past few days reminding his teammates the 49ers were beatable.
"They tie their shoes like us, man," Walker said. "At the end of the day, they're good, but we are all here for a reason. They're a great football team. And for us, it's just go out there and battle. We ain't going to bow down to nobody and that's it."
Walker finished 18 of 34 for 192 yards with two interceptions and a 45.2 passer rating -- hardly impressive.
However, what did stand out was Walker's ability to shake off throwing an interception that allowed the 49ers to take a 17-13 lead with 10:58 remaining. He forced a pass for Cooper that San Francisco's Deommodore Lenoir picked and returned to Cleveland's 8-yard line.
One play later, the Browns trailed.
But even after his mistake, Walker kept his cool.
"There's still a lot of time left," he said. "Been in the situation before. I mean, it's football, man. You're going to make mistakes, but you can overcome mistakes as well because you'll get another opportunity.
"So, for me, it's always about bouncing back. I mean, things happen and just keep going. ..."
I'll obviously be watching for more on Watson in advance of Sunday's game in Indianapolis; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ....
Other notes of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers, concerns were eased that Cleveland's running game would disintegrate after star back Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.
Despite not having All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio, the Browns rushed for 160 yards and showed some imagination with mis-directions and reverses. Cleveland's lone touchdown came on a 16-yard run after tight end Harrison Bryant took the snap and pitched the ball to Kareem Hunt.
Hunt started ahead of Jerome Ford and was heavily involved in the run game.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Pierre Strong Jr. and Hunt were both playing significant snaps on early downs, but Hunt played nearly all of the snaps Strong had been playing.
He also cut a little into Ford's work on early downs.
Hunt was the primary short-yardage back while Ford was the primary third-down back, which was consistent with their previous game.
Hunt was tied for second on the team in receiving yards (24) and was leading the team in rushing over the first three quarters. Ford gained 52 yards on five carries in the fourth quarter, which should help him keep his role in the offense for the immediate future. According to Jahnke, Hunt should be a waiver wire target in case he does overtake Ford as the Browns' lead back. ...
Cooper had two big sideline catches (58 and 26 yards) leading to Cleveland's first 10 points; he continues to be a constant for a banged-up and inconsistent Browns offense.
Rookie wide receiver Cedric Tillman was inactive due to a hip injury that popped up late in the week. Veteran Marquise Goodwin played more offensive snaps than usual in Tillman's absence.
QBs: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported, it's only mid-October, but Dak Prescott knew Monday was important for the psyche of his team, calling it "a must-win."
Mission accomplished with a 20-17 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Monday's win certainly wasn't pretty, but the Cowboys enter their bye week with a 4-2 record and still within striking distance of the Philadelphia Eagles and 49ers, who suffered surprising losses Sunday.
"It's early in the season but 4-2 or 3-3, it's a huge difference. Yeah, it just is," Prescott said. "Yeah. ... It's early in the season. I've been in a 3-5 season that we turned around and went on a win streak and won the division. ... But 4-2, second road win of the year, against a great team, against a great offense, great defense."
The fallout from Dallas' Week 5 blowout loss -- 42-10 -- against the San Francisco 49ers brought questions about the entire team, from Prescott's effectiveness to head coach Mike McCarthy's playcalling to the ability of a defense that was shredded.
"We talked after last week about not allowing this thing to landslide, and obviously I think a win like this allows you to really close that book," Prescott said.
Last year, the Cowboys were 4-2 after six games en route to a second straight 12-5 finish that qualified them for the playoffs. Since 2000, the Cowboys have started 4-2 or better nine times and made the playoffs seven times, including their last five. When they have been 3-3 after six games since 2000, they have missed the postseason six of eight times.
"The win was good," edge player Micah Parsons said. "It's good to always get back on track. That's our record: Prove the naysayers wrong."
The Cowboys are 10-1 after a loss over the past three seasons, but the heat they were catching after the San Francisco loss seemed to come at a higher temperature than at any other time in McCarthy's time as coach. Prescott was intercepted three times, and nine of his 11 drives were three plays or less. Brock Purdy threw four touchdown passes, shredding a defense that had given up 41 points in its first four games.
"A lot of talking this week," McCarthy said. "So they've been quiet. They worked hard ... I just loved their resilience and fight, and we came out on top."
The Cowboys converted three third-down opportunities on the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, although Prescott lamented a missed touchdown pass to running back Tony Pollard before Brandon Aubrey's 39-yard field goal gave Dallas a 20-17 lead with 2:19 to play.
A defense that had not sacked Justin Herbert or forced a turnover in the first nine possessions was finally able to get him on the ground (Parsons) and pick him off (Stephon Gilmore) to secure the win.
"Anytime I get an opportunity in the game, I'm waiting for them," Parsons said. "I feel like that's my moment. That's what my teammates are looking for me the most. It feels good to come up big for them."
It allowed Prescott to twice take a knee to seal the win in a close game.
"We haven't had close game, but this is what the NFL is about," Prescott said. "That's all I said is we've got to get used to this. We've got to stay confident in this, understand that these close games, one-score, field goal games, touchdown games, we've got to believe in ourselves, finishing it on our terms with the ball in our hands and thankful for our defense right there getting us that ball."
What made the win even better for the Cowboys is what happened to the teams they are chasing. San Francisco lost to the Cleveland Browns, and the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New York Jets.
"Crazy weekend in the NFL, but we were on the right side of it this week," McCarthy said. "And you know how fast that can change."
The Cowboys are now 10-1 after a loss over the last two seasons.
Maybe they're not dead after all. ...
Worth noting. ... Let's forget the passing numbers for Prescott. Let's talk about his rushing. He had the longest touchdown run of his career (18 yards) in the first quarter and the longest by a Cowboys QB since 2010.
Prescott has not used his feet as much in recent years.
He had 18 rushing touchdowns in his first three years and now nine in the last five. This was his first rushing touchdown since Week 8 of 2022, improving the Cowboys' record to 21-4 when he scores a rushing touchdown.
He had 45 yards rushing in the first five games and 33 in the first half versus the Chargers. He's not a running quarterback, but he can be effective with his feet and may need to do more of it.
According to Next Gen Stats, Prescott reached his two fastest speeds (18.65 mph) of the season on back-to-back runs in the first quarter, including his 18-yard touchdown run (18.06 mph). ...
Lamb had 84 receiving yards in the first half -- more than he had in four of the first five games. He acknowledged during the week his body language needed to be better after he was salty in the San Francisco game. All five of his catches in the first two quarters covered 10 or more air yards. In the New England game, he had eight completions with air yards of 10 or more. ...
Pollard rushed 15 times for 30 yards, but he added 80 yards on six receptions.
As Rotoworld noted, Pollard went into the half with just 20 yards on the ground and the team all but abandoned the run in the second half, but the underperforming back saved his fantasy day with a massive 60-yard catch-and-run reception on a check down.
Even with six receptions, Pollard was not involved in any schemed usage through the air, with all of his catches coming on bump-and-run check downs over the middle of the field. Either way, fantasy managers have to be happy with the counting stats after the first-time lead back has largely been a disappointment through the first six weeks.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Arnie Melendrez Stapleton reported it, "Sean Payton is a man in search of his mojo. ..."
Stapleton went on to explain Payton never lost five of his first six games during his 15 seasons as the New Orleans Saints coach and the Broncos have never started out worse than the 1-5 record they brought back to Denver after their latest loss to Kansas City.
Payton's play-calling and the Broncos' execution weren't good enough to capitalize on a suddenly stout Denver defense that limited Patrick Mahomes to a single touchdown drive Thursday night.
The result was a 16th consecutive loss to Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1), this time by a score of 19-8.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has taken plenty of heat with the Broncos dead last in several statistical categories so far, and Payton deserves similar scrutiny after the Broncos' bumbling offensive performance at Arrowhead Stadium on a night the Chiefs seemed ripe for an upset.
Russell Wilson threw for a meager 95 yards, the third-lowest total of his 195 career NFL starts, including playoffs. The only worse outings -- 77 yards against the Vikings in 2018 and 93 yards against the Cowboys in 2017 -- both came in Seattle victories.
In 10 drives, the Broncos scored one time, punted five times and turned the ball over twice on interceptions and once each on downs and a fumble.
Receiver Jerry Jeudy, who pranced and preened pregame in a squabble with NFL Network analyst and former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., had two catches for 1 yard in the first half and finished with 14 yards on three catches.
That was better than rookie Marvin Mims Jr., by far the Broncos' most productive receiver, who wasn't targeted a single time in Kansas City.
Payton, whose scathing criticisms of his predecessor, Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, backfired in a 31-21 loss last week, goofed on the Broncos' final possession before halftime, which led to a Harrison Butker field goal that pushed Kansas City's lead to 13-0.
The Broncos got the ball with 47 seconds left in the first half and were facing third-and-5 from their 44 when they used their second timeout. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey was beaten by Chris Jones, who sacked Wilson for a 7-yard loss with 22 seconds left before halftime.
Losing track of downs, Payton called his final timeout.
"That's a boneheaded mistake by me," Payton said. "They were calling one as well and I'm off by a down, but that was stupid."
While the Chiefs would have called a timeout anyway at that point, the gaffe highlighted Denver's discombobulated offensive operation that produced just 197 yards. Then, Riley Dixon's punt into a stiff wind traveled just 29 yards, and rookie defensive back Riley Moss touched the ball first after running out of bounds as a gunner, giving the Chiefs another 5 yards.
Butker's 60-yard field goal as the first half expired would come into focus in the fourth quarter when the Broncos pulled to within 16-8 only to allow Butker's 52-yarder with 1:55 left that restored the Chiefs' two-score advantage.
"It's a three-point swing there, but there are so many other things that jump into my mind relative to opportunities missed," Payton said, alluding primarily to the static passing attack that wasted Denver's good ground game and stellar red zone defense.
The Broncos aren't only in search of answers but of chemistry between the new coaching staff and the retooled roster. It's hard to envision the Broncos players rallying around Payton the way the Jets had Hackett's back last weekend in Denver after Payton took needless shots that fired up an opponent.
As McGlinchey said of Payton earlier this month, "He's still learning us, and we're still learning him. ..."
Meanwhile, the Broncos host the Packers on Sunday before their rematch with K.C. After that, it's the trade deadline and this roster could look drastically different in November.
Indeed, according to Matt Lombardo, senior NFL insider for FanBuzz, the Broncos are expected to trade Jeudy prior to the deadline with the hopes of prying away a premium draft pick in return. Through the first four years of his pro career, Jeudy's tenure with the Broncos certainly has not lived up to the hype of a former 15th-overall pick.
Jeudy was asked about the trade rumors surrounding the team after Thursday's game.
"At the end of the day, I am going to do my part and do my job," Jeudy said. "I don't think about all that. I just think about I'll just be where my feet are, you feel me? So, I can't think about the future. I can't think about the past. It's out of my control. I'm just taking it day by day."
The Colts and Panthers have been mentioned as possible suitors. I'll obviously be watching for more on that.
On the injury front. ... TE Greg Dulcich, who had just come off injured reserve, left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. It's the same injury that landed Dulcich on IR after hurting it in Week 1 against the Raiders. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on his status.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Jared Goff and the streaking Detroit Lions keep finding different ways to win.
A week after improving on their best start in more than a decade without injured star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the NFC North leaders used Goff's arm and a stingy defense to overcome the loss of leading rusher David Montgomery to beat the sputtering Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-6 on Sunday.
With Montgomery (ribs) sidelined after the second quarter and injured backup Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) also unavailable, Goff needed to take things to a different level on Sunday.
With not much of a run game against a tough Buccaneers defense, he completed 30 of 44 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover.
Even with the increased volume -- he came into the game averaging 31.8 attempts -- he had a season-high 11.8 average yards per completion.
At 5-1, the Lions are off to their fastest start since 2011 and share the NFL's best record.
"We've played well for six weeks. It's four in a row for us. It's a pretty good feeling, yeah, it certainly is," Goff said.
"I can't say enough about our defensive performance today and really for five games this year, to be honest with you," head coach Dan Campbell said. "Man, we're just playing as one unit right now. When your defense only gives up six points it's saying a lot."
Goff tossed TD passes of 27 yards to St. Brown and 45 yards to Jameson Williams, converting on third-and-13 in one instance and third-and-10 on the other as Detroit won for the seventh time in eight road games dating to last season.
The Lions' defense did its part by intercepting Baker Mayfield once, limiting the Bucs (3-2) to 251 yards of total offense and forcing Tampa Bay to settle for field goals of 33 and 36 yards on its only possessions that ended in Detroit's red zone.
Worth noting: The Lions were held to 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts.
Montgomery carried six times for 14 yards before being injured on his only reception. Craig Reynolds filled in with a team-high 15 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes for 28 yards.
Reynolds' block that helped St. Brown score was his most impressive contribution.
"I was like, 'Know what, go cut across the field, I'm going to try and score,'" St. Brown said. "So I cut across and I see 24 (Davis). I see Craig come out of nowhere and I kind of point at 24 and Craig just zoom, boom. He's the reason I scored."
The All Pro receiver was held out last week with an abdominal injury but returned with 12 receptions for 124 yards and a second-quarter touchdown -- including a season-high 50 yards after the catch.
Rookie TE Sam LaPorta had four catches for 36, narrowly missing out on joining Keith Jackson (Philadelphia, 1988), Jordan Reed (Washington, 2013) and Kyle Pitts (Atlanta, 2021) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 30 receptions in the first six games of a career. LaPorta, who was targeted 11 times on Sunday, has 29 catches.
Next up, the Ravens remain on road versus the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... Campbell said that Montgomery has a rib cartilage injury and will probably miss Sunday's game in Baltimore.
As noted above, the Lions were already without Gibbs and Zonovan Knight because of injuries, which left Reynolds and Devine Ozigbo as the available running backs for the rest of Sunday's game.
Campbell said Monday that he feels "a lot better" about Gibbs playing this Sunday against at the Ravens.
I'll be watching for more on Montgomery and Gibbs in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on that. ...
To state the obvious: Reynolds should be a priority waiver wire pickup in case the Montgomery injury is serious. Gibbs hasn't practiced, so there is a chance he also won't be ready for next week, in which case Reynolds will see 15-20 carries. If Gibbs returns from injury before Montgomery, he would be a fantasy starter. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Over his last 17 games -- the equivalent of a full NFL regular season, Goff has completed 391-of-578 (67.6 percent) for 4,473 passing yards with 29 passing TDs and just four interceptions.
As noted above, Williams caught a 45-yard dime from Goff on his fifth career reception in the third quarter. After serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy, Williams displayed his ability to be a deep threat in his second game back. As ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard notes, Williams can certainly stretch the field and generate yards after the catch with his blazing speed and playmaking, but the Lions will continue to ease him into things slowly.
Despite the expectations that come with being the No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 draft, the Lions aren't putting a ton of pressure on Williams at this stage.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee noted, nobody knew quite what to expect from Jordan Love this year because he had started only one game while backing up Aaron Rodgers the past three seasons.
That wasn't nearly enough evidence to give anyone much of an idea whether Love has what it takes to continue the Packers' three-decade run of outstanding quarterback production, a pattern that started with Hall of Famer Brett Favre and continued with Rodgers.
Five games into Love's first season as a starter, it's still hard to tell if he's a long-term solution. But his last couple of performances have provided cause for skepticism.
"I've got to be better," Love said on multiple occasions after throwing three interceptions Monday night in a 17-13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Since the Packers (2-3) don't play again until Oct. 22 at Denver, Love has extra time to learn from his mistakes and regain the promise he showed at the start of the season.
Love was leading the NFL in passer rating through the first two weeks of the season, but he now ranks 28th in that category.
The 2020 first-round pick from Utah State has completed just 55.6 percent of his passes, the lowest percentage for any starting quarterback this season.
After throwing six touchdowns without an interception in his first two games, Love has been picked off six times while throwing just two touchdown passes over his past three games. During those three games, the Packers have averaged just 17 points and have been outscored 54-6 in the first half.
In the first of those three games, Love helped the Packers score 18 straight points in the final 11 minutes of an 18-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints. They followed that up by losing consecutive games to the Detroit Lions and Raiders.
"We've just got to find a way to get going faster, get a rhythm going," Love said. "And I've got to find a way just to be better, get some completions going and move the ball."
Head coach Matt LaFleur noted that there's plenty of blame to go around for the offense's recent struggles.
"I think there's definitely some plays that we'd all like to have back," LaFleur said. "Just like there's some calls that I'd like to have back as well. And quite frankly, all the spotlight's going to be -- or the majority of the spotlight's -- going to be placed on the quarterback."
Love is throwing primarily to a collection of rookies and second-year pros at receiver and tight end while directing an offense missing its two most proven performers.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari is out for the season after playing just one game as he prepares to undergo a fifth surgery on his left knee since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. Running back Aaron Jones has missed three of Green Bay's past four games because of a hamstring injury, though the Packers are optimistic he could return after the bye week.
That has led to plenty of growing pains all around with this offense. The issues were evident in the closing minutes Monday night as the Packers attempted to drive for a go-ahead score. Second-year receiver Romeo Doubs and rookie tight end Luke Musgrave dropped passes on back-to-back plays before Love threw the interception in the end zone.
On that interception, second-year receiver Christian Watson could have done a better job of competing for the ball that Amik Robertson picked off. Watson is 6-foot-4 and Robertson is 5-9.
"I've got to find a way to track it a little bit quicker so I can adjust to it a little bit quicker," Watson said. "When 10 (Love) calls my number, I need to be able to have him be able to rely on me a little bit more."
The Packers cleared the way for Love to take over as starting quarterback when they traded Rodgers to the New York Jets.
Shortly after that trade, they signed Love to a contract extension running through the 2024 season.
That gives the Packers a couple of years to determine whether he's a worthy successor to Favre and Rodgers, who each won a Super Bowl title with Green Bay while winning a combined seven MVP awards.
Love's fast start offered hope that the Packers might have struck gold on a quarterback again. Then defenses adjusted and started holding Love in check and forcing him into mistakes.
Love says he just needs to do a better job of making the right decisions and taking care of the ball.
"There's been opportunities," Love said. "I've just got to be better in that area. ..."
On the injury front. ... As noted above, last we saw the Packers, Jones was on the sidelines with a hamstring issue that's bothered him dating back to early September; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Finally. ... The Packers are adding another piece to their running back group. The Packers announced that James Robinson is joining the practice squad.
Robinson signed with the Patriots as a free agent in March, but was released in June amid concerns about his health. He spent the preseason with the Giants, but failed to make the cut to 53 players with the NFC East club.
Robinson ran for more than 1,800 yards over his first two seasons with the Jaguars, but tore his Achilles late in the 2021 season. He returned to play seven games for the Jags last season before being traded to the Jets.
Jones has missed three of the Packers' last four games with a hamstring injury. A.J. Dillon has been the lead back in his absence.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Emanuel Wilson, James Robinson
WRs: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Ben Sims
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
After failing to get a late stop in a loss to the Falcons last week, the Houston Texans got two in the last five minutes on Sunday to secure a victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Rookie C.J. Stroud threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns and the defense did the rest as the Texans held on for the 20-13 win.
"When the game was on the line and we needed it most, guys stepped up," head coach DeMeco Ryans said. "It's tough to win in this league, but it was awesome to see the way our guys grinded it out and the way they stepped up right there in the end."
The victory matches Houston's win total from last season when the team finished 3-13-1.
Stroud threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter after setting an NFL record for attempts without a pick to start a career. Stroud entered the game having thrown 186 passes without an interception to pass Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw 176 passes before being intercepted.
Stroud threw five passes Sunday to stretch the streak to 191 before a pass intended for Dalton Schultz was intercepted by Zack Baun with about six minutes left in the first quarter.
But receiver Nico Collins hit Baun after the interception and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Tytus Howard, to give the Texans the ball back.
Stroud put the Texans up 7-0 when he threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Schultz to give him a TD in three straight games.
Stroud said he was able to shake off his miscue quickly in part because when he looked at Ryans, the first-year coach yelled to him: "you got it."
"I could see it in his eyes that he cared about how I was going to respond," Stroud said. "That means a lot that he has trust and faith in me and I'm going to have trust and faith in myself, too. I knew that (Baun) made a good play and they weren't going to get me again."
For the record, Stroud, the second overall pick in the draft, has thrown a touchdown pass in five straight games and has thrown two in four of his past five games.
He ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,660 yards passing and his 7.8 yards per throw is fourth in the league.
Stroud is pleased with his success so far but thinks he and the Texans can do much more.
"DeMeco was up here for 45 minutes showing us the details, all the positive plays we've had," Stroud said. "And we were kind of like: 'Man, we shouldn't be 3-3.' We should be better than that, but we are because we missed details on little certain plays.' That's what it boils down to."
Stroud was sacked two times Sunday after the Texans entered the game having not allowed a sack in a franchise-record three games. ...
Is the Texans run game back on track? Coming into the game, the Saints were allowing 91.6 rushing yards per game, eighth-best in the NFL, and the Texans were averaging 82.6 yards per game, 27th in the NFL. But in Week 6, the Texans' rushing attack was effective against the Saints as it ran for 120 yards, led by running back Devin Singletary, who had 58 yards.
Singletary played the majority of the available snaps and the majority of early down work in a major change for Houston.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Dameon Pierce had been largely ineffective the first five weeks. He averaged 2.9 yards per carry and gained a first down on 10.7 percent of his carries. It was assumed a lot of the problem was the offensive line because he was still avoiding plenty of tackles.
It was clear Houston was going to change on the first two drives.
Pierce played 42 offensive snaps to Singletary's four on first and second downs on the first two drives during the first five weeks. The two split snaps at four each in those situations this week.
The Texans also used Singletary to close out the game. He played nine of 13 snaps in the fourth quarter compared to two by Pierce and two by Mike Boone.
Singletary should be one of the top waiver wire pickups of the week while Pierce should be kept out of fantasy starting lineups.
Collins managed to catch four balls for 80 yards, which brought his season totals to 29 receptions for 547 yards. The yardage mark is now a career high for Collins in a season. His first three catches all went for first downs, as he pulled in passes for pickups of 11, 24 and 28 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone that was worth 14 yards and gave Houston a 1st-and-Goal at the 1-yard line.
Schultz, who is in his first season in Houston after five years with the Cowboys, has become a top option for Stroud. He had four catches for 61 yards and the aforementioned touchdown Sunday to give him three straight games with a TD for the first time in his career.
"Seeing Dalton and his playmaking ability in the passing game, it's been what we anticipated we would get from him and it's showing up big time," Ryans said. "Proud of Dalton for him showing up, making big-time plays for us. ..."
WR Tank Dell missed Sunday's game with a concussion but should return for the next game. ...
The Texans are off this week before Stroud will match up against No. 1 pick QB Bryce Young Oct. 29 when Houston visits Carolina Oct. 29. Young's had a tough time this season and the Panthers, who also have a bye this week, are the NFL's only winless team at 0-6.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Robert Woods, Noah Brown, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Teagan Quitoriano, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Anthony Richardson is "probably" going to miss the rest of the regular season and could undergo shoulder surgery in the next week or so, team owner Jim Irsay told ESPN.com's Stephen Holder on Monday.
On Wednesday, Irsay updated that to say the surgery will, in fact, happen.
"After consultation with our medical staff, Anthony, and those close to him," Irsay posted on X, "it has been determined that he will undergo surgery to repair his injured shoulder, which will end his season. Anthony is a competitor, and we know how difficult and disappointing this is for him and our team. We collected several medical opinions and we felt this was the best course of action for his long-term health. We anticipate a full recovery and there is no doubt Anthony has a promising future.
"In the meantime, I love the fight of this team and I’m excited for the opportunity we have ahead of us. It starts this week with Cleveland.
Richardson, this year's fourth overall pick in the draft, sustained an AC joint sprain in his right (throwing) shoulder during the second quarter of Indianapolis' Week 5 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts have spent the week-plus since the injury obtaining numerous medical opinions on how to proceed. Part of the decision making process was deciding whether Richardson's injury needed to be surgically repaired or whether continued rehab would be sufficient to fix the problem.
Richardson's own preference was a factor. In fact, it was a key element, Irsay said.
The Colts on Sunday lost their first game since Richardson was placed on injured reserve last week when they fell 37-20 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are now 3-3 and host the Cleveland Browns in Week 7.
"We think we have an outstanding football team still," Irsay said. "We'll take them one at a time."
The last one wasn't great.
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long noted, Gardner Minshew's return to Jacksonville was a turnover-filled folly, a much different version of "Minshew Mania."
Minshew lost a fumble and threw three interceptions in his first game back in Jacksonville since the Jaguars traded him just before the 2021 season.
Minshew's miscues were critical in Indianapolis' 37-20 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday.
"At the end of the day, I was careless with the ball," Minshew said. "I didn't do a good enough job taking care of it. I put our team in a really bad spot, and it's not fair to the rest of the guys. So I'm really going to look at those, hold myself accountable.
"We're not going to tuck our tail. We're not going to drop our chin. We're just going to keep rushing through and learn from it and we'll come out the other side better."
Minshew completed 33 of 55 passes for 329 yards, with a 2-yard touchdown to Josh Downs being one of the few highlights. Jacksonville's Josh Allen forced a fumble on Indy's second possession and then Minshew three picks to Andre Cisco, Rayshawn Jenkins and Darious Williams in a span of six drives before and after halftime.
It could have been worse, too. Minshew had another interception negated by a penalty and two more potential ones dropped by linebacker Devin Lloyd, who played with a partial cast on his right hand.
"Obviously, we got ourselves in a hole there with the turnovers," Indy coach Shane Steichen said. "We got to do better there. It starts with myself doing a better job there, but I thought our guys fought hard and fought until the end. Obviously, we kept getting ourselves in a hole. I got to do better, like I said."
Minshew got little help from Indy's ground game.
Zack Moss ran seven times for 21 yards and a touchdown, and Jonathan Taylor added 19 yards on eight attempts in his second game back from the physically unable to perform list. Moss and Taylor combined to catch 11 passes for 84 yards.
Indeed, there was a flash of the potential Taylor possesses when he caught a short pass on a drag route and turned it into a 40-yard gain in the second quarter.
The Colts need Taylor to reclaim his workhorse role quickly. They also need Moss to continue his breakout season, which propelled him into the league's top three rushers after five weeks and despite sitting out Week 1 with an injury.
They'll need both if the Colts hope to turn things around when Cleveland visits Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
And the solution is simple: The Colts need a stronger commitment to a balanced attack that features their two top uninjured playmakers -- Taylor and Moss.
"We've got to be efficient doing those things even when we put ourselves in those situations, those holes with the turnovers," Steichen said. "We've got to fight our way out of those things like crazy. I thought our guys fought, but getting ourselves in the hole was a big thing to overcome there."
They need Minshew to get on point, too.
This was his third-worst passer rating (60.3) in 26 career starts. It also was the first time he has thrown three interceptions in a game. Still, the Colts rallied and cut the lead to 11 with about 8 minutes remaining. But the defense could get a stop and then Minshew threw incomplete on a fourth-and-17 play.
"Just kept shooting ourselves in the foot one way or another," Minshew said. "Personally, I was not good enough. I got to be better and give us a chance to win. As the game went on, it kept getting closer and we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities."
Can the Colts compete long-term with Gardner Minshew in the lineup?
As ESPN.com's Stephen Holder notes, Minshew has performed best this season when coming off the bench in relief of Richardson. But in the two games he started, when opponents had a chance to prepare for him, he's struggled. Baltimore limited him to a 61.4 percent completion rate in Week 3 and the Jaguars picked Minshew off three times.
Things won't get any easier this Sunday when the Colts host the Browns, who boast a very impressive defense. ...
Beyond Richardson on the injury front. ... The biggest additions to this week's injury list are WR Alec Pierce, who hurt his right shoulder in the fourth quarter, and TE Kylen Granson, who entered the concussion protocol after the game. Steichen said team doctors will monitor Pierce throughout the week.
I'll have more on Pierce and Granson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Amari Rodgers took over as the outside receiver opposite Michael Pittman Jr. for the rest of the game. Rodgers has traditionally played in the slot, but Downs continued playing in the slot for the vast majority of snaps.
If Pierce misses time, this will likely mean slight increases in targets for both Pittman and Downs. They had five and four targets, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
In what might be a related note. ... Wide receiver Juwann Winfree was added to the Colts active roster on Tuesday.
The Colts announced that they signed Winfree off of their practice squad. He had been elevated three times on a temporary basis and would have to be released after a fourth call-up on that basis.
Winfree played five offensive snaps and 11 special teams snaps in those appearances. He had nine catches for 75 yards with the Packers over the last two seasons. ...
Mo Alie-Cox was active despite being questionable while in the concussion protocol. He was a full participant in practice on Friday, but his playing time has steadily declined throughout the season. ...
Finally. ... Colts' nose tackle Grover Stewart, one of the NFL's top run-stoppers, has been suspended without pay for six games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Head coach Doug Pederson said Trevor Lawrence is day-to-day with a left knee injury but wouldn't elaborate on the specifics of the injury or whether his starting quarterback could play in Thursday night's game at the Saints.
Pederson said Lawrence's knee is sore but feeling better on Monday and that he could split first-team practice reps with backup quarterback C.J. Beathard this week, depending on how the knee responds.
Lawrence had an MRI on Monday, but Pederson said he didn't know the specifics of what it showed or whether Lawrence had suffered any strained ligaments.
"You'd have to talk [vice president of player health and performance Jeff Ferguson]," Pederson said. "That's out of my jurisdiction."
Lawrence was hurt on a third-and-7 play from the Indianapolis 16-yard line with 3:10 remaining in the Jaguars' 37-20 victory over the Colts at EverBank Stadium on Sunday. He faked a pitch to the right to Travis Etienne Jr. and rolled left and was chased down by Colts defensive end Samson Ebukam at the 33-yard line.
Lawrence immediately grabbed his left knee and stayed down for a moment. He walked off the field and went to the bench, where team physician Kevin Kaplan examined his knee. Lawrence got up and walked around after several minutes and remained on the sideline for the rest of the game, participated in postgame handshakes, and attended his postgame news conference without a wrap or brace on the knee.
He appeared to have one on his left leg when he left the stadium Sunday evening, however.
The Jaguars (4-2) had a walk-through on Monday and Lawrence was listed as a nonparticipant. The QB was back on the practice field Tuesday and he said he felt good about how his left knee is responding a couple of days before Jacksonville takes on the Saints.
"I'm going to do everything I can to be out there. I feel a lot better today than I would have thought, so I like how I'm progressing," Lawrence said.
Lawrence wore a brace in Tuesday's practice and said it was his first time working out with one.
He said he will wear it again on Wednesday and try to get comfortable with it because he thinks he will likely wear it if he plays on Thursday.
Lawrence has not missed a start in his career. Beathard hasn't started a game since the final two weeks of the 2020 season while with the 49ers and has a 2-10 record as a starter. He signed with the Jaguars the following offseason and has appeared in eight games, completing 11-of-15 passes for 77 yards and one interception.
In addition to Lawrence, Pederson said right guard Brandon Scherff (ankle), left guard Walker Little (knee) and receiver Zay Jones (knee) are day-to-day, which means the Jaguars could be without four offensive starters on Thursday if they don't play.
"Obviously non-committal on this game just yet," Pederson said of Little and Jones.
Pederson also said it's likely that cornerback Tyson Campbell (hamstring) will not play against the Saints (3-3). The Jaguars are 0-3 all time in the Caesars Superdome.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
In a Lawrence related note. ... The QB has been sacked 16 times in six games -- none more significant than the last one that knocked him out of the game -- and is on pace to shatter his career high of 32 set in 2021. It's far from the protection Jacksonville wants for its franchise quarterback.
The offensive line used a different starting five for the fourth consecutive week Sunday, with veteran Tyler Shatley subbing in for injured left guard Walker Little. With right guard Brandon Scherff dealing with a left ankle injury, the Jaguars might have to shuffle the unit again before facing New Orleans on Thursday. ...
Meanwhile, it's fair to wonder if Etienne has become the offense's most important player.
Etienne ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. It was the second week in a row he's rushed for multiple touchdowns, tying a franchise record for consecutive games with multiple rush touchdowns, but the offense stalled out in the fourth quarter when the Jaguars were trying to run clock and seal the game because the Colts wouldn't let Etienne get free.
He had five carries for 0 yards and the Jaguars had minus-2 yards on 12 plays. The inability to run clock late may be a one-game thing, but the Jaguars have to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Worth noting. ... Tank Bigsby achieved a new career high in offensive snaps. According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, this was partially due to four kneel-downs along with two more plays where both running backs were on the field. Etienne still played the Jaguars' only goal-line and the majority of the short-yardage snaps.
With Jones out again, Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley and Evan Engram were able to dominate targets for another week.
The trio combined for 75 percent of the Jaguars targets although none of them achieved more than 50 receiving yards.
The Jaguars passing offense wasn't particularly effective in this game, but we should expect them to bounce back going forward assuming Lawrence is healthy.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
The Chiefs beat the Broncos for the 16th consecutive time last Thursday night while winning their fifth straight game and moving to an AFC-best 5-1.
But much of the talk in their locker room after the 19-8 victory was about its uninspiring manner. While the Chiefs on defense strangled Russell Wilson and the Broncos for most of the game, allowing Denver its only touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes and the offense were searching for answers.
The Chiefs scored one touchdown in five trips inside the Denver 20 and needed four field goals from Harrison Butker, including a 60-yarder on the final play of the first half, to prevail.
Even Kansas City coach Andy Reid, who has never seen his team claim an ugly victory, said, "We strive for something better than what we're doing right now."
The Chiefs aren't exactly struggling on offense this season. They are ninth in scoring at 24.5 points per game and seventh in yards at 382 yards per game.
However, that is below the standards they have set since Mahomes became their starter in 2018. To win games, they have had to rely on their defense, which against the Broncos held an opponent to 10 points or fewer for the third time this season and took a shutout into the fourth quarter for the second time.
"Luckily for us, our defense is playing great so we can go through these growing pains and try to get better and better," Mahomes said. "The talent is there. You can see it in spurts.
"I thought we did a great job of staying patient, getting the ball down the field, but in this league, three points and seven points is just such a big difference, and so I think if we found a way to execute in the red zone and score those touchdowns, we'd come away feeling great. Since we didn't, we have a lot of room to improve, and so that's just something that we've got to continue to work on. It's just putting a full game together. Let's put a full game together and see what we can do."
Mahomes said the Chiefs usually build their offensive identity as the season goes on, but the process is taking longer this season. Travis Kelce, with nine catches against the Broncos, is again a consistent receiving threat, and running back Isiah Pacheco is averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
But the Chiefs are struggling to find wide receivers they can count on. The most reliable has been a rookie, Rashee Rice, who has 21 catches and a pair of touchdowns. He is their only wide receiver with at least 12 receptions and an average of more than 10 yards per catch.
"We're getting more [deep] coverage than even I expected," Mahomes said. "There's a lot of deep coverages, and it's forced us to be patient, drive the length of the field.
"... We did a good job driving the field. We just didn't score the touchdowns today. So the defenses are going to do that. We'll continue to get better and better at it, and then when the opportunity arises and we get man coverage, we have to make sure we hit those deep ones."
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, many teams are trying to slow down Kansas City's offense by playing zone defenses, but the tradeoff is watching Kelce nickel-and-dime his way down the field. The tight end's uncanny ability to find soft spots in the coverage was on display again Thursday night, when he caught nine passes for 124 yards -- with Taylor Swift watching, of course.
Meanwhile, it's safe to say the Chiefs' wide receiver group has not been a strong suit this season, but Kansas City won its fifth consecutive game anyway, and Mahomes said afterward that he likes what the young receivers on the team are giving him.
Mahomes said several young receivers on the Chiefs are showing signs of improvement and that he's confident they're going to contribute more as the season goes on.
"They're getting better and better," Mahomes said on the Prime Video postgame show. "We didn't score touchdowns today, but we moved the ball down the field. Just little execution things here and there. Rashee Rice is coming along strong, man. You see when he catches the ball how explosive he is. Guys like Justyn Ross, guys like Skyy Moore, they have a place in this offense and they're going to make plays as the season goes on. It's just going to be about getting them involved early, keeping their confidence going and they'll keep getting better and better."
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, Kelce will remain Mahomes' favorite target, but Rice is developing into a solid young wide receiver, who may be a legitimate No. 1 receiver at some point. With the best quarterback in the NFL, the Chiefs don't need their wide receivers to be perfect, they just need their wide receivers to catch the ball when Mahomes gets it to them. After so many failures by the receivers led to the Chiefs' Week 1 loss, they've been better since then, and the Chiefs haven't lost since then.
Worth noting: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose contract pays him more than the rest of the Chiefs' wide receivers combined, was without a catch Thursday night; he only has seven for 116 yards this season. In fact, his most notable play against the Broncos was a flag for an illegal blindside block. ...
In a related note. ... It looks like the Chiefs are going to be without wide receiver Justin Watson for a spell.
Watson injured his elbow during Thursday night's 19-8 win over the Broncos.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that he has been diagnosed with a dislocated elbow and that he is having an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.
Per the report, he's out for at least a few weeks and that absence would grow longer depending on what the scans show.
Watson did not have a catch on Thursday and has 10 catches for 219 yards so far this season. ...
Butker struggled much of last season after an injury in Week 1, but the big-legged kicker is now perfect through six games. He is 14-for-14 on field-goal tries, including the aforementioned 60-yarder and the clinching 52-yarder Thursday night, and 15-for-15 on extra points. ...
The Chiefs get a few extra days off before hosting the Chargers on Sunday.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson, Mecole Hardman, Justyn Ross, Richie James
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
While the Las Vegas Raiders feared an internal injury for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and sent him to the hospital for scans at halftime of Sunday's game, head coach Josh McDaniels said it "seems like we've dodged a big bullet" in his Monday media conference.
"So that's good news," said McDaniels, who noted that the quarterback was still undergoing testing Monday morning. "We'll make sure we do all the right things here as we go forward, but the prognosis is a lot better than it might have otherwise been."
Garoppolo was injured during the Raiders' final first-half drive but stayed in the game. He was in obvious pain in the huddle as he grabbed at his lower right back. After he did not return to the field after halftime -- he left in an ambulance still wearing his game pants -- the Raiders listed him as out with a back injury.
He had led the Raiders to a 13-3 halftime lead, en route to a 21-17 win over the New England Patriots that evened Las Vegas' record at 3-3 as 15th-year veteran Brian Hoyer played the second half.
The Raiders play at the Chicago Bears (1-5) on Sunday. McDaniels said it was too early to determine who would start at quarterback for Las Vegas.
"We'll just, again, protect him, for sure and make sure that we're not putting him at risk," McDaniels said of Garoppolo. "That would never be something we would want to do. So, again, that's going to be a medical thing for us, relative to following their orders."
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reminded readers, rookie Aidan O'Connell started for the Raiders in their Week 4 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, throwing for 238 yards and an interception while completing 24 of 39 passes and getting sacked seven times.
Hoyer, meanwhile, was 6 of 10 for 102 yards against the Patriots, including a 48-yard pass to rookie receiver Tre Tucker on third-and-4 that was the Raiders' longest play from scrimmage this season.
In five games, Garoppolo has passed for 1,079 yards while completing 68.0 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and an NFL-high eight interceptions for a passer rating of 82.6 and a Total QBR of 48.3
"Again, very happy that we, obviously, dodged a bad scenario, so we'll just kind of take [doctors'] advice," McDaniels said. "We don't even have everything we need yet to make that determination, but the fact that we've played three guys already certainly doesn't hurt. It's not ideal in terms of what you want to do, but [O'Connell and Hoyer] both got game experience. They both have had to operate our offense in critical situations in close games, so that's helpful for them too.
"Whatever would give the team the best opportunity to win, which may be Jimmy. Obviously, we'll have to see how that goes."
I'll have more on Garoppolo and the plan for the weekend via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson noted, trip after trip to the red zone Sunday, and the Raiders -- with one exception -- couldn't reach the end zone.
They still managed to escape with a win, but the margin could have been much bigger.
Starting with Sunday's game in Chicago, the Raiders enter a stretch of winnable games, but like against New England, the team could find itself in a position of potentially missing out on victories if Daniel Carlson continues kicking field goals rather than extra points.
The issues inside the 20-yard line were numerous against the Patriots.
Las Vegas hurt itself with untimely penalties, lack of execution and a fluky turnover when Davante Adams was hit hard and the ball popped into the air.
"Down there, it's all about details and execution," McDaniels said Monday. "There's very, very little margin for error. When you make an error, it usually is exacerbated, and it ends up in either a negative play or you're kicking field goals. We fell behind the sticks, I think, three times down there in the red zone, and when you do that, it's very difficult to overcome."
This isn't a new problem. The Raiders are 25th in the NFL in red zone offense at 40.9 percent, a major reason they are averaging 16.7 points per game, tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for 27th.
Until this game, Las Vegas had gone six games in a row without reaching 20 points. The Raiders only got there this time because of a sack for a safety in the final moments.
The lack of red zone production isn't conducive to winning.
"We have to do better," McDaniels said. "I have to do a better job of trying to get us to play penalty free and be able to capitalize on the opportunities that we have. The good about that is you play good enough to get it down there as many times as you do.
"I'm a glass half-full guy and we're going to try to fix that, and we're going to do everything we can to do that. I thought we played well on third down enough yesterday to get it down there, and now we've got to capitalize on our opportunities. ..."
In a related note. ... Carlson is delivering. He responded to a rare off game to make all four field-goal attempts against the Patriots.
Against the Packers, Carlson had a 53-yarder blocked and hit the right upright from 52 yards. But that shows how high the expectations are for one of the league's best kickers. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Adams is one of the league's top receivers, but caught only two passes for 29 yards against New England. Hunter Renfrow is two years removed from a 1,000-yard season, but has just six receptions for 59 yards.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Renfrow's playing time has slowly but surely declined. It took a dramatic step down last week, with DeAndre Carter getting more playing time.
This week, third-round rookie Tucker played more in 11 personnel. He took roughly half of the 11 personnel snaps. Carter and Renfrow each took a third.
Adams and Jakobi Meyers took all but one snap each in 11 personnel, and they were the only wide receivers to take snaps in other personnel groupings.
It's unlikely a Raiders third wide receiver becomes fantasy relevant this season, but this made it clearer Renfrow probably won't be a Raider by the time November hits. ...
Michael Mayer's rookie season got off to a slow start, with Austin Hooper serving as the starting tight end over the first five games. However, in Week 5 we saw Mayer begin an upward trend in route participation (44 percent), and in Week 6 the rookie catapulted the veteran with a 67 percent mark.
Mayer finished Week 6 as the second-most targeted Raider and delivered 13 fantasy points to finish as the TE5. As FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland suggests, targets will be tough to come by with Adams and Meyers both demanding significant looks, but Mayer has the type of upside profile we want to buy into. He is available in most leagues.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Kris Rhim suggested, when Justin Herbert took the field with just over two minutes remaining and the Chargers trailing the Cowboys by only three points, it was a position Herbert and all Chargers fans are likely accustomed to.
Rhim went on remind readers that Herbert has played in 38 one-score games since he entered the league in 2020, second most in the NFL over that span. Herbert has gone 18-20 in those games, with four more losses than any other quarterback.
Monday night's game was one of those losses, as the Cowboys' pass rush forced Herbert into an errant throw that landed in the hands of defensive back Stephon Gilmore, effectively ending the game. The Cowboys kneeled the ball on their remaining snaps and won 20-17, dropping Los Angeles to 2-3 and third in the AFC West.
"I thought those receivers, they made plays, and the offensive line, they're going up against a really good front seven, and they battled well today, and they gave me plenty of time to be able to get the ball off," Herbert said. "I feel horrible for the guys for the way that the game went, but we'll have to be better and learn from it."
Monday night marked the second straight game in which Herbert looked like a different version of the player many consider to be among the top tier of quarterbacks in the NFL. Against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, Herbert set career lows in completions (13) and yards (167) and threw an interception on a play that resulted in his fractured left middle finger.
Herbert's counting stats were better Monday: 227 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he made costly errors, two of the most significant coming on throws to Keenan Allen.
The first was in the second quarter when Allen beat Cowboys defender DaRon Bland down the sideline, but Herbert overthrew Allen and the ball landed out of bounds. Four plays later, the Chargers punted.
On a fourth down in the first quarter, Allen made Bland fall with a quick double move that left the receiver wide open. Herbert overthrew Allen again. Herbert threw his arms up in frustration, and Allen sat on his knees and stared at the Sofi Stadium ceiling, both realizing the missed opportunity in a game filled with them.
"Keenan ran two great routes, and I missed him, so that's on me as a quarterback," Herbert said. "And we had those explosive opportunities, and we have to capitalize on those. That's a really good defense we're going against. I can't miss throws like that, and you know, expect to continue to get back on third down and get back on track."
"He missed Keenan on the double move, but that's just part of ball," head coach Brandon Staley said. "He definitely gave us a chance to win in the game."
Herbert's throws to Allen were indeed bad misses when he had good protection from the offensive line, but that was far from the case all night.
Rhim went on to acknowledge much of Herbert's struggles can be attributed to the Cowboys' dominant defensive line play. Herbert seemed to be scrambling all game as the Cowboys' pass rush blew by Chargers offensive linemen with ease. According to Next Gen Stats, the Cowboys generated pressure on 47.6 percent of Herbert's dropbacks, the highest rate of pressure Herbert has faced in any game this season.
"I feel like we prepared. Some of it was just technique, some of it was just tough luck," offensive guard Jamaree Salyer said of the offensive line struggles. "Obviously, they got a lot of good players who get paid a lot of money. ... Just some situations we got to have better technique, some situations you got to have a better plan."
The Chargers have the Kansas City Chiefs up next Sunday.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs have the lowest percentage of quarterback pressures in the NFL, generating 29.2 percent of pressures on dropbacks. Still, they are sixth in the league with 17 sacks.
If the Chargers don't find an answer for the Chiefs' defensive line by Sunday, they could be in a similar position.
"I think it's our job as an offense to be able to score more points," Herbert said. "When our defense is playing as well as they are ... we got to capitalize on those turnovers, capitalize on the field position. So it's on us as an offense. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... According to NFL.com's Nick Shook, the Chargers really miss Mike Williams. Look no further than Los Angeles' red zone opportunities, in which the Bolts seemed to be searching desperately for a path to the end zone.
The lack of a big target means any physical mismatch will come from tight ends, allowing the Cowboys to direct their attention to Gerald Everett and Donald Parham, blanket Allen and dare anyone else to beat them.
It's not just in the red zone, either: This passing game relies too heavily on Allen to move the ball through the air, making the task simpler for opposing defenses and undercutting the Chargers' potential.
The bad news: Williams won't be back until 2024. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is going to need to find another route to success. ...
The Chargers are still struggling to run the ball. Even with Austin Ekeler returning from a high right ankle sprain he suffered in Week 1, Chargers running backs struggled to have any success, amassing just 35 total yards. Outside of a 233-yard rushing performance in Week 1, the Chargers have rushed for over 100 yards just once this year and combined for just 91 yards in Weeks 2 and 3.
Finally. ... Safety Raheem Layne tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Monday's loss to the Cowboys. Staley delivered the news that Layne will end his season on injured reserve at his Tuesday news conference.
With Alohi Gillman and J.T. Woods out with injuries, Layne played as the dime safety. A.J. Finley replaced Layne.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
According to ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, head coach Sean McVay didn't give a specific timeline for injuries to running backs Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers, but said "the initial prognosis looks like it's going to be challenging for those guys in the immediate future."
An MRI on Monday revealed Williams has a sprained ankle that is expected to sideline him for Sunday's game against the Steelers but is not considered a long-term injury, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter earlier in the day.
The MRI results for Rivers were not as promising. He has a Grade 3 PCL sprain and is out 4-5 weeks, which likely will land him on injured reserve, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
"Those guys are going to be out for a little bit," McVay said. "Exactly how long we're kind of working through, but that's tough information for both those guys who've done a really good job."
Williams sustained the injury in Sunday's 26-9 victory over the Cardinals, a game in which he rushed for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown.
He got 154 of those yards in the second half, becoming the first Rams player since Marshall Faulk in 2001 to have at least 150 rushing yards in a half, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Williams' backup, Rivers, injured a knee early in the second half Sunday. If he can't play against the Steelers, rookie sixth-round pick Zach Evans will likely get the start at running back. McVay said the Rams are still "working through" the plan without Williams and Rivers, however.
"Obviously you saw Zach Evans get the first carries," McVay said. "We've got Royce Freeman on our practice squad, and there'll be some different things that we're in the midst of working through right now.
"And so we'll probably have a little bit better idea once you get the full gauntlet of what it exactly is looking like projection-wise on both Ronnie and Kyren, how that will affect any sort of decisions as it relates to the roster and then what it looks like for the landscape of the league."
In addition to promoting Freeman from the practice squad, the Rams signed Myles Gaskin off of the Vikings' practice squad, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Gaskin signed with the Vikings at the end of August after he was released by the Dolphins. He has gone between the practice squad and their active roster, appearing in one game for the Vikings this season. He played two special teams snaps.
The team also added former Ram Darrell Henderson to the practice squad.
It won't be easy for the team to fill Williams' shoes. Through six games this season, Williams has 456 rushing yards on 97 carries and 105 receiving yards on 13 catches.
The second-year player came into the season as the Rams' No. 2 back but, after the opener, earned the No. 1 spot. Cam Akers, who began the season as the starter, was inactive in Week 2 and then traded to the Vikings, leaving Williams as the clear lead back.
Williams has seven total touchdowns this season (six rushing, one receiving).
I'll have more on the running back situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham noted, the injuries put a damper on the good feelings from one of the Rams' most impressive ground performances in recent years.
Los Angeles fell behind 9-6 at halftime after the Cardinals' unorthodox defensive fronts fooled McVay and Matthew Stafford into flexing out of some rushing plays. But after running the ball only three times in the first half, the Rams aggressively committed to the run game after halftime with impressive results.
McVay, ever ready to criticize himself, absorbed a lesson in trusting his plan.
"We got talked out of some things that we didn't necessarily need to," McVay said of the Rams' hesitant play-calling in the first half. "I knew we had, what was it, three runs in the first half? So, yes, I was aware of that."
Although McVay has been calling NFL plays for nearly a decade, the Cardinals threw out some unusual schemes that fooled the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl into some regrettable decisions.
"However you cut it, it's an excuse," McVay said. "I have to do a better job right from the jump for our guys and put them in some better spots."
The Rams' passing game remained solid with strong play from Stafford and another big game from Cooper Kupp, but Los Angeles appeared to have the ingredients for a balanced offense capable of helping out its deliberately undermanned defense. Stafford believes the Rams can excel by establishing their running game whenever possible.
"It's not as easy as lining up and just running the ball all the time," Stafford said. "The defenses are going to have their hand in it, and we have to do a good job staying on the field on third down, all those kinds of things."
A visit from Pittsburgh (3-2) is a chance to get above .500 against another opponent roughly on the Rams' level. Aaron Donald will get to face his hometown team for only the third time in his career, and he's 0-2 against the Steelers. ...
Other notes of interest. ... With seven catches for 148 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, Kupp hit the 100-yard receiving mark for the 18th time in the past three seasons, trailing only Minnesota's Justin Jefferson in that span.
Kupp's return has minimized Tutu Atwell's role in the offense, and that seems unwise. After catching just two balls a week ago against Philadelphia, the speedy third-year pro turned his only target against Arizona into a 30-yard gem of catch-and-run football. The Rams need Atwell's downfield speed to worry opposing defensive coordinators, but he won't threaten them if Stafford never looks his way.
Puka Nacua is six games into a record-setting start to his career, but the rookie's hands are not perfect. He dropped what would have been a touchdown pass from Stafford in the first half, although the Cards were called for defensive holding on the play.
Nacua had more drops than any receiver in the NFL by some measures over the first five weeks, though that's also a product of being targeted more than any receiver.
One last note here. ... As Beacham pointed out, the Rams curiously added only one new starter to the offensive line after the unit struggled with injuries and performed poorly overall last season. Yet the line has been significantly better this season, even in the latest injury absence of Joe Noteboom. After this impressive run-blocking effort against the woeful Cardinals, the line deserves credit as a primary reason the Rams are still at .500.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
The Miami Dolphins are showing few weaknesses on offense.
At 5-1, the Dolphins have bulldozed teams behind Tua Tagovailoa's accuracy, wide receiver Tyreek Hill's dynamics and a running game that has been just as productive as their passing attack.
Down 14-0 and facing their second multiple-score deficit of the season, the Dolphins (5-1) responded with 35 unanswered points in a 42-21 win to equal the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC standings.
Miami trailed by multiple scores in eight games last season, winning two of them. When it fell behind multiple scores to the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, Miami crumbled in a 48-20 blowout.
"We wanted to make [the Bills game] a learning lesson for us coming into the game. So, I think we learned from it," wide receiver Jaylen Waddle said. "We still got a lot to grow from throughout the year, so we're going to come back and just try to keep building."
It showed head coach Mike McDaniel the growth in his team from last season to now.
"It was a big day for our football team and I think the guys knew it," McDaniel said. "They didn't bat an eye. They didn't go at each other. They didn't question calls. They didn't do all the things that when it's the first time that you've put forth maximum effort and you have enough talent on your team, the first time that happens, it's not that easy."
Still, Miami mostly makes it look easy.
The Dolphins erupted for 177 yards in the second quarter, taking a 21-14 lead on three touchdown passes from Tagovailoa. Shortly before halftime, Tagovailoa found Hill for a 41-yard score -- his third touchdown pass of at least 30 yards this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
A week ago, the duo connected for a 69-yard touchdown on a play Tagovailoa changed in the huddle, unbeknownst to McDaniel in real time. This time around, McDaniel was more involved in any potential audible.
"He said, 'Here's the play, but if you want to do this, if you want to do that, I don't care,'" Tagovailoa said of McDaniel. "'It's not basically giving you full control, but I trust that you're going to make it right.' So that's what we did."
The Dolphins finished with 424 yards of offense, well short of their season average (513.6) entering Week 6. But they also turned in their fifth straight game with at least 100 rushing yards after breaking the century mark only six times last season.
Miami still leads the league in yards per game (498.7), passing yards per game (316.8), rushing yards per game (181.8) and scoring (37.2 points per game).
They're on pace to break the 2011 New Orleans Saints' record for total yards of offense in a single season, although they'll have the benefit of an extra game with the NFL going to a 17-game schedule in 2021.
Tagovailoa leads the league in passer rating (114.1), yards passing (1,876) and yards per attempt (9.7). He's the only quarterback in the NFL this season to post a 90-plus passer rating in all six games after he completed 21 of 31 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and a 126.0 quarterback rating Sunday.
Miami will next face the athletic dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) on Sunday Night Football, and Tagovailoa understands the magnitude of that matchup. It will provide the Dolphins with an opportunity to show they can beat tougher opponents.
The Eagles, a season removed from playing in the Super Bowl, have the best record of any team Miami has faced so far but are coming off a 20-14 loss to the New York Jets.
"I think this is a game that a lot of people are going to want to see, given the talent that's on that side of the ball, the talent that's on this side of the ball," Tagovailoa said. "It's one of those where, 'OK, we've got a lot of good matchups across the board. How are these guys going to play us? How are we going to come out against these guys?'
"So we're really excited for this next opponent."
After the Eagles this week, the Dolphins host division-rival New England the following week before traveling to Germany to take on Kansas City. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Hill now has 814 yards through six games, which is the most in that span in the Super Bowl era.
Mostert rushed for multiple touchdowns for the fourth time this year and is powering Miami's run game by averaging nearly six yards per carry.
Mostert said earlier this season that he feels great physically. That has shown in the 31-year-old's production. He had 17 carries for 115 yards Sunday and scored three times. He has a league-best nine rushing touchdowns -- 11 total -- which is a career high.
Mostert gave credit to Miami's offensive line, which has only given up six sacks in six games,
"They make it a little bit easier," Mostert said, "and also receivers and pretty much everybody in the offense to help out with that cause. But I'm just trying to do something remarkable for myself, and I'm just trying to set the standard not only for myself but a lot of people who come in as an undrafted guy."
On the injury front. ... C Connor Williams missed his second game with a groin injury. ... McDaniel said CB Xavien Howard is day to day after injuring his groin. Howard dealt with a groin issue for most of last season, which hindered him on the field. ... RB Chris Brooks was down on the field for a while after hurting his ankle in the fourth. He was helped off without putting much weight on the ankle.
Jeff Wilson Jr. started practicing last week, but he wasn't quite ready to return from injured reserve. The Dolphins will ideally get him back this week but that shouldn't stop anyone from starting Mostert with how well he's been playing.
I'll have more on Wilson and Brooks via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote: "It turns out that when you lose the superstar receiver whom you've built your offense around, things don't go so well."
The 0Vikings could hardly move the ball Sunday in their first game since Justin Jefferson went on injured reserve -- despite facing one of the NFL's worst defenses. Their performance, even in a 19-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, laid bare a frightening prognosis for the three (and possibly more) games they'll have to play without Jefferson in the coming weeks.
Seifert went on to suggest we should probably start with a reminder of where the Bears stood entering Sunday. Their defense was allowing 31.4 points and 384.2 yards per game, the third- and fourth-highest figures in the league, respectively. And no team had allowed opponents to convert third downs at a greater rate (57.4 percent).
Consider that context when absorbing the Vikings' total offensive output: One offensive touchdown, two 50-plus-yard field goals and 220 total yards, including only 36 on six possessions after halftime. They converted 15.4 percent of their third-down attempts (2-of-15) and didn't have a play go for longer than 21 yards.
If they struggled against the Bears' defense, what can be expected Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers, who are allowing an NFL-low 14.5 points per game this season?
"Our guys are excited to get the win," head coach Kevin O'Connell said, "but our offense will be hungry to go back to work and make sure we rectify some of those things."
O'Connell went out of his way to praise the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom he said played "really clean, really efficient football, gave some guys some opportunities" and added that "honestly, the way Kirk was throwing it today, I feel like it could have been a much, much bigger day."
Cousins finished 21-of-31 for 181 yards and a touchdown.
To be fair, Cousins did place a perfect pass deep down the left sideline in the second quarter, but rookie receiver Jordan Addison dropped what would have been a 35-yard gain. It was one of three drops for Vikings pass-catchers, by the measure of NFL Next Gen Stats, and it did not take a doctorate in NFL offense to see the impact of Jefferson's absence elsewhere.
According to Seifert, the Vikings' first possession neatly encapsulated their predicament.
They gained 15 yards on a planned first-play throw to Addison, but their next seven plays netted only 13 yards. Cousins completed a 3-yard pass to receiver K.J. Osborn on third-and-4, necessitating a quarterback sneak to convert on fourth-and-1. And on third-and-7 from the Bears' 35-yard line, Cousins' throw was tipped off the hands of receiver Brandon Powell, who moved into the three-receiver group after Jefferson's injury.
Jefferson had been the Vikings' most-targeted receiver on third down (14) through the first five games of the season, and it was clear that the Vikings hoped to limit long third-down attempts.
Cousins' average throw came after 2.74 seconds (his quickest this season), largely because his average pass traveled 6.8 yards in the air -- the shortest this season.
As a result, Cousins was pressured on only 6.1 percent of his throws. Two of those pressures forced him into fumbles, one of which the Bears recovered.
"We could have, should have, need to be much better on offense," Cousins said. "Probably a combination of things there."
Seifert notes the approach might have worked better if the Vikings' running game had been more productive.
But it netted only 46 yards on 22 carries, including 44 on 18 carries from starter Alexander Mattison.
O'Connell's initial assessment focused on a relative scarcity of holes. Indeed, 36.3 percent of the Vikings' carries came with at least eight defenders in the box, according to ESPN Stats and Information charting. That's nearly double what opponents deployed in the first five games of the season when forced to account for Jefferson.
"Just didn't see the space in there that we've kind of been able to generate over the last couple weeks," O'Connell said.
Jefferson made the trip to Chicago amid a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter that he "will have to ask himself whether a return this season is worth the risk of long-term injury if the Vikings have fallen out of the playoff race." The Vikings (2-4) didn't lose any ground Sunday in the playoff race, and O'Connell pointed out that they are now 1-0 in the NFC North, despite the sluggish state of the offense.
"We're going to continue to press forward," O'Connell said. "Got a lot of confidence in our pass game. We'll detail it up. I'll give those guys some better calls, and hopefully we'll improve rapidly, because that's my expectation with that group."
Again, the Vikings host San Francisco on Monday night, with the 49ers coming off their first loss of the season in a concerning game at Cleveland during which three vital offensive players -- running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and left tackle Trent Williams -- suffered injuries that make their availability this week unclear. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Although Mattison wasn't all that effective in the run game, PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes this was the running back's third time in four weeks with 17 or more carries.
Mattison had been losing playing time to both Cam Akers on early downs and fullback C.J. Ham on third downs, but both of those trends reversed. Mattison went back to playing a similar number of snaps as before the Akers trade. Jahnke added that Mattison was more involved in the passing game than most weeks. It was the fourth time in his career with seven or more targets.
Jahnke believes Mattison should remain a weekly fantasy starter despite the low yards per carry this week while those holding onto Akers in shallower leagues can drop him at this point -- though he will remain the handcuff to Mattison.
Finally. ... The margin of victory in this game was six points, aided greatly by Greg Joseph hitting two long field goals of 51 and 53 yards, his first two field goals of more than 50 yards this season.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, N'Keal Harry, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
In a shocking turn that few saw coming, the New England Patriots are 1-5 for the first time since 1995, which was Robert Kraft's second year owning the team.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, players were looking within following Sunday's 21-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, knowing they've dug themselves into a major hole, sitting in last place in the AFC East with division games against the Buffalo Bills (4-2) and Miami Dolphins (5-1) the next two weeks.
"I think we're all right, man. It's a good test for us," seven-year veteran receiver Kendrick Bourne said. "It's up to us to look ourselves in the mirror and see who we are individually and what we are going to bring every day.
"Are we just going to quit and come in to work to just work? Or are we going to come to work to really work and put in effort so we can change this thing around? If we get guys coming in like that, I think it will change."
Even if it changes, the Patriots hardly look like a contending team, putting them in jeopardy of finishing in last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2000, Bill Belichick's first year as coach.
Only the Steelers have a longer active streak without a last-place division finish (1998).
But these Patriots are different. They are the only team to have not scored more than 20 points in a game this season.
Asked to assess the team's morale on Sunday, quarterback Mac Jones said: "Obviously, we just lost, so it's not good. But I think we have a really good group of guys, and if we choose to respond the right way, then it'll be really good. If we don't, then it'll go the other way.
"I know I'm going to be positive, always. That's my goal. Try to work hard like I've been doing and bring people with me. I know we've been saying that, and the results haven't been there. I guess maybe look at the process and see what we need to change to get better."
Among the Patriots' undoing against the Raiders were self-inflicted wounds.
Belichick said he was going to take a closer look at the team's 10 penalties for 79 yards -- two of which came on the first two offensive plays and three when the offense was attempting to drive for a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter -- which he noted was not a "good formula."
Furthermore, the sloppy performance came after a week when Belichick had said the team was going to "start over" and focus on more fundamentals.
"We work so hard and we've put an emphasis on it," Jones said. "I like to put them in different buckets. Was it a forced penalty? Or were you giving effort and they just called it? The unforced ones are the ones that you want to take away, and we have too many of those -- penalties, turnovers, all that stuff.
"We definitely need to improve, but we have to keep swinging. If you don't swing, you're not going to get any hits."
The early-season slide also sparks a question of how the Patriots will approach the Oct. 31 trade deadline. They usually look to add players, but that's because they've usually been in contention for a postseason berth.
Players were still processing their standing after Sunday's loss, acknowledging they must look beyond their 1-5 record.
"You have to love this game. You have to put your best foot forward every time you get the opportunity to step on the field," running back Rhamondre Stevenson said. "So I would just say it just starts within, and just being your own leader, and following the guys that do it well. And just on to the next play, on to the next day, and just keep their head up and just stay working hard."
Meanwhile, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggested, if Jones truly was on a "short leash" as was reported last week, the Patriots would have replaced their quarterback at halftime Sunday.
The Patriots had only 107 yards and four first downs and trailed 13-3 as Jones was 8-of-14 for 97 yards and a terrible interception in the first half.
Jones, though, played all but three snaps and threw for 200 yards.
He doesn't pay attention to outside noise and has no presence on social media, so Jones didn't know he supposedly was on a "short leash." Jones also didn't care.
"No, just because I don't really pay attention to that stuff," Jones said on WEEI on Monday, via Lauren Campbell of masslive.com. "Obviously, we talk about it on the interviews and shows. For me, I just want to go out there and try and execute a little bit better each week and get better. Every week's different. Some weeks you're going to run the ball a lot or play action a lot, and some week's you're going to throw and do all those things.
"It just depends on the week. And I try not to focus on all of the emotions from the outside and really just focus on the team, because I really care about the team, and I really do have a really good relationship with a lot of the guys. We want to do better. We're trying. We're working, and we've just got to continue to do that."
Now, as the Patriots try to avoid falling to 1-6 on Sunday against the Bills, Jones will once again be the starting quarterback.
Via Dakota Randall of NESN.com, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien told reporters on Tuesday that Jones will retain his job.
"Yes," O'Brien said in response to the question of whether Jones will continue to start.
Maybe if the Patriots had a better option behind Jones, changing quarterbacks might be more realistic.
But Malik Cunningham was the backup Sunday, and the Patriots also have Bailey Zappe and Will Grier. So, when the Patriots say Jones gives them their best chance of winning, they aren't wrong.
Worth noting: O'Brien also said that Cunningham's role will be determined on a "week to week" basis. O'Brien said that the coaching staff hasn't lost confidence in Zappe.
He served as the emergency quarterback on Sunday, with fourth-stringer Will Grier not in uniform. ...
For the record, Cunningham took two snaps at quarterback and four at wide receiver in this game. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Patriots were down two receivers but got one back.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas were inactive after suffering concussions in Week 5. However, Tyquan Thornton returned to make his season debut after spending the start of the season on injured reserve.
Bourne took over in 12 personnel, playing 26 of a possible 27 snaps, while 24 of Thornton's 25 total snaps come in 11 personnel. Bourne caught 10 passes for 89 yards and was the clear leader of the receiver room.
Douglas and Smith-Schuster had been the primary slot receivers in 11 personnel, but Bourne moved into the slot more often than not in this game.
Veteran Jalen Reagor was elevated off the practice squad to be the fourth wide receiver. This was surprising, as sixth-round rookie Kayshon Boutte has been inactive for the past few weeks. Boutte had played 55 snaps in Week 1 but didn't catch any of his targets.
It will be very interesting to see how snaps are distributed this week, assuming everyone is healthy. Jahnke believes the chances are that it will be enough of a rotation to make it tough to trust anyone for fantasy purposes.
Meanwhile, Stevenson carried the ball 10 times for 46 yards and a touchdown and caught five of six targets for 24 yards against the Raiders.
Stevenson had exited the game in the third quarter to be checked out for head and ankle injuries, but the fact that the running back was not only able to return but make an impact suggests his status for Week 7 won't be in question.
The 70 scrimmage yards represented Stevenson's highest total since New England's opener, while the TD was his first since Week 2.
Tight end Hunter Henry's holding penalty in the second quarter nullified a 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott. It would have been the longest play of the season for New England. Henry is usually a top option for Jones. But he was a non-factor offensively, catching just one of his three targets for 7 yards.
Henry (ankle) was hurt in the second half.
QBs: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, Derek Carr said he apologized to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael for a sideline outburst in the fourth quarter of New Orleans' 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Carr appeared to be gesturing in frustration as he came off the field late in the game and spoke to Carmichael on the sideline. In a video of the encounter that appeared on social media, Carr spoke briefly to Carmichael, pulled off his helmet, then gestured toward the end zone after Carmichael walked away.
"I apologized to Pete actually on the airplane," Carr said Monday. "I was talking to Pete, but I wasn't talking about Pete. Pete and I know exactly what I was talking about, and why. When the game's on the line, that's when you have to be on every detail of your assignment. And I was a little upset at some of those things. It had nothing to do with Pete, he just happened to be the one that walked up when I was a little angry."
Carr admitted he was "livid" after the game.
The Saints outgained the Texans 430 to 297 in total yards, Carr passed for a season-high 353 yards but the offense went 0-3 in the red zone and missed two field goals.
Carr acknowledged there were miscommunication issues that led to some of the stalled drives. "Until we get on the same page, there's going to be sucky feelings," Carr said.
Carr said he spent Sunday night and Monday morning speaking with receivers Rashid Shaheed, Michael Thomas and Chris Olave to try to work out some of the problems.
"We corrected things, you just don't want to correct them after a loss," Carr said. "And so we all take that responsibility, and if someone's pointing fingers, and if we come constructively to each other and [they] can't take it, that's on them as a person. We have to be able to sit at the table and have a conversation. We have to be able to do those things and move forward. So far it's been super positive."
Carr wasn't alone in his frustrations about lack of attention to detail. Linebacker Demario Davis, a team captain, addressed the team after the game and asked everyone to look in the mirror and ask if they were giving enough.
Carr said Davis asked: "Did you do what you did last week, this week? Or did you just enjoy ... the week too much?"
Davis downplayed the speech on Monday and said he was just trying to send an encouraging message to the team, but it clearly resonated with Carr and running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara said the preparation and sacrifice from players like himself, Davis, Cameron Jordan, Carr and Thomas are clear, but he can't speak for everybody on the team. Only each individual knows their true level of effort, he said.
"I don't know what everybody else is doing to prepare, but there's a certain type of sacrifice that you have to make to come out here and play at a certain level, an elite level. I just hope everybody's doing that," Kamara said.
Kamara said the message was said in hopes that everybody is making that same sacrifice every week.
"I think Demario kind of said it lightly, but it needs to be elaborated on," Kamara said. "Because we keep having this conversation about preparation and guys got to execute, this and that. It's like, OK, well, if it's not happening, what's the next conversation? Because you can't keep saying it."
As the Saints move forward, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night, Kamara wants Davis' message to continue to resonate.
"Everybody needs to be able to raise their hands and say 'You can count on me,'" Kamara said. "That might need to be the message. Can I count on you? If you can't raise your hand and say you're doing everything you need to do to be ready and we can count on you to play and give your all, then. ... That's where we need to start."
In four of the Saints' six games this season, they have failed to score more than one touchdown. They were held out of the end zone entirely during a 26-9 loss at home to division-leading Tampa Bay in Week 4.
Offensively, the Saints have scored a total of eight touchdowns in six games.
"All we can do is just go back to work and continue to grind at it," head coach Dennis Allen said. "I just believe that eventually it's going to turn around for us."
Worth noting: Rookie kicker Blake Grupe missed two field goals, although one was from 52 yards in the first half. Those misses were costly and forced the Saints to go for it on fourth down twice late in the game. But blaming the kicker would be to minimize New Orleans' inability to get in the end zone.
Other notes of interest. ... Olave was one of the bright spots of the offense after two down weeks, catching seven passes for 96 yards despite working through a toe injury. Shaheed, the second-year pro who went undrafted out of Weber State, had 85 yards receiving and a touchdown on just two catches, including a 51-yarder.
Taysom Hill caught seven of eight targets for 49 yards. His previous career-high in receptions was three yards in a game in 2019.
He played a significant role as a receiving tight end due to Juwan Johnson missing another game with a calf injury.
As for the injuries. ... Carr took a step in the right direction at Tuesday's practice.
Carr was listed as a limited participant with right shoulder and chest injuries on Monday, but he was upgraded to full participation as the team continued getting ready for Thursday's game against the Jaguars. Carr has been dealing with the shoulder issue for a few weeks and the chest injury was added to it on Monday.
The rest of the Saints' injury report remained unchanged. That means linebacker Demario Davis (knee) was out of practice along with right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (concussion), offensive lineman Landon Young (hip), offensive lineman James Hurst (ankle), Johnson (calf), and safety J.T. Gray (hamstring).
Safety Lonnie Johnson (hamstring), defensive end Cam Jordan (back), safety Tyrann Mathieu (foot), Olave (toe) and guard Andrus Peat (groin)) remained in the limited category.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
Running back Jamaal Williams is on his way back to the Saints lineup.
The NFL's daily transaction report shows that Williams has been designated to return from injured reserve. Williams, who was listed as a limited participant, injured his hamstring in Week 2 and became eligible to return to the active roster after last Sunday's loss to the Texans.
Williams can practice with the team for the next 21 days. He can be activated at any point in that window, so he could play against Jacksonville on Thursday night. If he's not activated in the three-week span, he won't be able to return this season.
Williams ran 27 times for 74 yards and caught two passes for seven yards before his injury. ...
Finally. ... With rookie QB Jake Haener returning from suspension, the Saints waived Jake Luton.
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, Tyrod Taylor took the blame for the play call at the end of the first half that allowed the clock to run out on the New York Giants at the Buffalo Bills' 1-yard line in a 14-9 loss at Highmark Stadium.
There was 14 seconds remaining in the half when Taylor alerted from a passing play to a run.
Running back Saquon Barkley was tackled for no gain and the Giants couldn't get to the line of scrimmage to spike then ball before time expired.
"It was a decision looking back on it (I) never should have made. Shouldn't have made," Taylor said. "Alerted to a run. Thought I saw a look that was beneficial for us and it wasn't the right call.
"That falls on me. As a quarterback, as a leader, as the one that is communicating everything to everyone, got to be better in that situation."
The Giants had a 6-0 lead at the time. Even a field goal would have made it a two-score game with New York getting the ball to start the second half.
Instead, the Giants (1-5) lost on a crazy ending where a pass to tight end Darren Waller fell incomplete in the end zone on an untimed play. The Giants needed a touchdown on the play. It was their fourth straight loss.
The lost points at the end of the first half proved crucial.
"Had a play called. It was a run-action pass play and (Taylor) ended up alerting it to a run," head coach Brian Daboll said. "Didn't get (another play) off."
Daboll was asked afterwards if he communicated with Taylor not to run it with 14 seconds and no timeouts remaining.
"Yeah. There was communication. Yep," Daboll said. "He just saw a look based on the play that we had and ended up alerting it to a run."
Barkley put the blame on his own shoulders.
"I got to do a better job. ... We got to find a way to come up with points there, but I put that on me," he said. "The ball was in my hands on that play. Got to find a way to score."
Barkley was making his return after missing the previous three games with a high ankle sprain. He finished with 93 yards rushing on 24 attempts.
Taylor, in his 13th professional season, was playing in place of injured starter Daniel Jones. He finished 24-of-36 passing for 200 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I thought he had a really good week of preparation," Daboll said. "He's a pro. I'm glad we have him. I thought he did a heck of a job (Sunday). Thought he did a heck of a job."
But the Giants once again failed to score an offensive touchdown. They have now gone three-plus games (205 minutes) without the offense getting into the red zone. Taylor led them into the red zone on five different occasions on Sunday night against one of his former teams.
Even though the Giants came into the contest as the biggest underdog (15.5 points) in any NFL game this season, the way it all unfolded -- they led for most of three quarters and had a chance to win on the final play -- left a sour taste in their mouths.
"Disappointed," Taylor said. "Obviously, the goal is always to win. We came up short of that (Sunday night). So, yeah, disappointed."
One-yard short. And the last play came with some potential controversy.
Bills defensive back Taron Johnson had his hands all over Waller on the game's final play.
"There was contact," Waller said. "But I'm not someone who is going to get into what a call should've been or how to tell the officials how to do their job because there is a way for me to make that play there and that is what I focus on."
The call wasn't made and the Giants fell lost their fourth straight game.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan noted, while this might have been their best 60-minute performance all season, the result was the same as a blowout.
After facing Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and Buffalo, Daboll's team has 11 games left, including two with the Eagles (5-1), who beat them three times last season, and one with Dallas, which beat New York 40-0 in the season opener.
The Giants have a chance in the other eight games, with none of the teams better than a 3-3 record -- including the Commanders who visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
A chance, yes. But it appears minimal.
Since the merger in 1970, only three teams have started the season at 1-5 and made the playoffs. The Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) were the first in 1970, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) in 2015 and the Indianapolis Colts (10-6) in 2018.
A seemingly exhausted Daboll said his approach for the rest of the season will not change.
"I think you come in on Wednesdays with enthusiasm every week," he said Monday. "It's the National Football League, so you do the necessary things you need to try to do each week to put yourself in good position and compete and give yourself a chance and that's what you do every week."
Maybe it will bear fruit next year. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Barkley had missed the last three games due to injury, but he played with no restrictions in this game. He can safely be put in fantasy starting lineups again.
Wan'Dale Robinson fully takes over the slot role: He had been rotating with Parris Campbell, but Campbell didn't see an offensive snap in this game.
Robinson missed the first two weeks of the season but was ready for a limited role in Week 3. He played only 11 snaps but caught four passes for 21 yards. His playing time shot up past Campbell's in Weeks 4 and 5.
He played 64 percent-67 percent of offensive snaps and caught five passes in each game.
As FootballDiehards.com's Evan Tarracciano notes, Robinson should be a waiver wire target this week. ...
On the injury front. ... Jones' injury update wasn't promising.
According to the New York Post, the quarterback indicated he still feels the effects of his neck injury that sidelined on Sunday.
"Still dealing with some of those symptoms from it," Jones said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on the "Up and Adams Show" on FanDuelTV and YouTube.
"I'm not gonna get specifically into what exactly they are. But I'm trying hard to get back, still dealing with it a little bit, but trying to do everything I can to heal up and prove to the doctors and trainers that I'm ready to go.
"I'm doing everything I can to get back. I hope I can play."
That Jones is still dealing with symptoms does not bode well for his ability to play against the Commanders; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, with Jones still dealing with a neck injury, the Giants worked out quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Ian Book.
The Giants elevated Tommy DeVito from the practice squad Sunday night to back up Taylor.
Barkley makes sense, having spent three years with Daboll when both were in Buffalo.
Barkley became a free agent on Sept. 1 when the Bills released him from injured reserve.
Book has spent time with the Saints, Eagles and Patriots since New Orleans made him a fourth-round pick in 2021.
Finally. ... The Giants placed backup left tackle Josh Ezeudu on injured reserve Tuesday, according to the NFL's transactions report.
Ezeudu injured a toe on his right foot in Sunday night's loss to the Bills, needing a cart to get to the X-ray room.
He started Sunday Night Football in place of Andrew Thomas, who was inactive with a left hamstring injury.
The Giants are signing offensive tackles from other teams' practice squads, with Josh Miles leaving the Falcons and Tyre Phillips the Eagles.
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. framed it: "Raise your hand if you thought the New York Jets would be 3-3 at their bye-week break after Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles tendon four snaps into his debut.
"Yeah, sure. ..."
Waszak went on to note even the most optimistic of fans likely had a tough time envisioning that scenario, especially after ugly losses to Dallas and New England in consecutive weeks, followed by a tightly contested defeat against Kansas City.
It still probably seemed unlikely Sunday until late in the fourth quarter, when the Jets' defense came up with stop after stop and made a big play -- Tony Adams' interception -- to put New York in position to score the eventual winning touchdown in a 20-14 victory over previously undefeated Philadelphia.
"Not that anyone cares, but there has been a lot of adversity within this organization, with all the different things that have transpired," head coach Robert Saleh said Monday. "But the resolve and the resilience of the group that we have in the locker room and the effort that's put out day in and day out, on Sundays, I think has been evident.
"But all this great momentum could end if we don't finish strong coming off the bye week."
Entering the season, the talk around the facility was Super Bowl hopes -- but that was with Rodgers leading the way.
Without the four-time NFL MVP and with the struggling Zach Wilson under center instead, all that seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream.
But the defense has been strong and Wilson has been more efficient and not making the mistakes he made so often his first two seasons.
"I think there's been no hiccup with this team, especially this offense," Wilson said. "These guys understand how good we can be and we're seeing it out here."
There are certainly still some major flaws, especially on offense, with the Jets relying too often on field goals instead of finishing drives in the end zone. In their last two wins, over Denver and Philadelphia, Greg Zuerlein has kicked nine field goals.
That can't be sustained if New York plans to keep pulling out victories.
The defense has been downright stingy in the second half, not allowing a touchdown in the final two quarters in five of the six games. Against the high-flying Eagles, the Jets kept Jalen Hurts and Co. off the scoreboard after halftime -- and that was even with starting cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed out with concussions.
"I'll tell you what," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "On the defensive side, we've been through hell and back."
So have long-suffering Jets fans, who now suddenly have optimism after feeling despair just a few weeks ago.
After the bye, the Jets take on the Giants as the visiting team before facing the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. Then come AFC East games against Buffalo and Miami, so New York has a chance to begin its playoff run with a good stretch.
To do so, they'll need to improve their third-down and red-zone offense.
The Jets are still struggling in both situations. They were 2 for 11 on third down, with both conversions coming on the same drive late in the third quarter. At 25 percent on the season, New York ranks last in the NFL in that category. The Jets were 1 for 4 in the red zone and are 29.4 percent for the season, ranking better than only Pittsburgh (29 percent).
"I think we're close," Wilson said. "But I think it comes down to eliminating negative plays. ..."
Worth noting. ... The Jets used their running backs the same as they did last week in normal early-down situations. Breece Hall took 32 snaps, Dalvin Cook took nine and Michael Carter received one.
But PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes that one big difference this week was the short-yardage situations.
According to Jahnke, Cook was on the field for both short-yardage situations last week, while Hall was on the field for all five this week. Hall also received more snaps in passing situations, playing five snaps on either third downs or two-minute drills. He's taken a few snaps in those situations throughout the season but took only one snap last week.
Hall was the primary third-down back before he was injured last season, so there is a chance Hall could move even closer to an every-down role going forward. ...
On the injury front. .. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson left briefly with a non-contact injury and was able to return, but he had some strong criticism about the playing surface. "It's garbage, man," Wilson said after the game. MetLife Stadium replaced its synthetic turf field during the offseason after several players were injured in recent years, but even the new playing surface is being heavily criticized.
Rodgers' injury came on the same field, but it was on a sack and not a non-contact play. ...
Meanwhile, Saleh had no immediate updates on injured players, but the Jets hope to have both Gardner and Reed back from concussions after the bye. ... Rookie OL Joe Tippmann is dealing with a thigh injury that could sideline him a few weeks.
QBs: Tim Boyle, Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
The Eagles' unbeaten streak is over.
As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston suggested, the questions that came out of a humbling, disconcerting loss to the New York Jets -- the first time Philadelphia lost to them in 13 career games -- are only starting.
The most pressing: What went wrong with Jalen Hurts?
Another: What was Hurts thinking on that pass that was picked off by Tony Adams that essentially sealed the win for the Jets?
Hurts tied his career high with three interceptions -- he threw six all of last season. Yes, Hurts was under pressure almost the entire game, and losing a key offensive lineman to injury didn't help. But the fourth quarter was arguably Hurts' worst performance as an Eagles player.
He has thrown seven interceptions this season.
Hurts overall has not played up to the standards that made him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL and league MVP runner-up last season. His interceptions are up, his decision-making is baffling and his ability to scramble or create something out of nothing on a broken pass play largely has been missing.
Yes, there's a new offensive coordinator in Brian Johnson, and recent injuries have hampered the O-line.
But Hurts had shown last season that he was able to rise above the rare cases of subpar play around him and -- more to the point -- flash the type of dynamic playmaking that rarely placed the Eagles in any danger of getting upset by teams like the Jets.
Thanks to winning the NFC championship, the Eagles were stuck with one of the toughest schedules this season and they're about to enter the teeth it, starting with Sunday's game at home against Miami. Like the Eagles, the Dolphins are 5-1, and they have scored 31 or more points in four of the victories. How about November games against Dallas, the Chiefs (in a Super Bowl rematch) and the Bills?
"It's just the mentality. I'm not going to sit here and say we've been here before or anything like that, but we have," Hurts said. "But I think it's just a matter of how we respond and that starts with me and how I lead the charge."
Not only did Hurts struggle, the Eagles got almost nothing out of their ground game.
Four turnovers, including a lost fumble by running back D'Andre Swift, turned this one into a disaster for the Eagles.
With Philadelphia leading 14-12, Bryce Hall picked off Hurts early in the fourth quarter. The Jets went three-and-out on their next series -- and the Eagles had a chance to widen the margin, but Jake Elliott missed a 37-yard field goal attempt after making 16 of 17 to start the season.
"Sometimes after bad losses there's great times for growth and so that's what our mission will be to grow from this, grow from the mistakes that we made," head coach Nick Sirianni said.
They'll need to get things figured out quickly. The Eagles return home for a Sunday night game against the 5-1 Dolphins and it's safe to assume they'll need their offense to be on point to keep up with Miami's "Greatest Show on Surf" offense. ...
Other notes of interest. ... While Hurts struggled, his connection with receiver A.J. Brown remains red-hot.
Brown went over 125 passing yards for the fourth consecutive game -- the first to do so since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
Brown became the fourth Eagles player to have 100-plus receiving yards in four consecutive games, joining Terrell Owens (five games, 2004), Harold Jackson (five games, 1971-72) and Mike Quick (four games, 1983). Brown also is the only Eagles player since 1970 to have 125-plus receiving yards in three consecutive road games.
Brown joined Jackson (four games, 1971-72), as the only Eagles players with four consecutive games of 125-plus receiving yards.
Finally. ... Wide receiver Julio Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, was signed to the Eagles practice squad, though NFL Network's Ian Rapoport expects a quick elevation and/or signing to the 53-man roster when he gets up to speed.
Most signings this time of year start on the practice squad to manage rosters. This is another example.
Jones, 34, will be reunited with former Tennessee Titans teammate Brown, who pushed for Tennessee to trade for him in 2021.
The Eagles recently placed wide receiver Quez Watkins on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and worked out receivers Marquez Callaway and Dezmon Patmon on Monday. In the end, they turned to Jones, who will be on his fourth team in four years.
Jones' 13,629 career receiving yards are the most of any active player in the NFL.
Along with previously playing with Brown in Tennessee, Jones also previously played with Eagles receiver Olamide Zaccheaus when the two were together with the Atlanta Falcons from 2019-2020.
Jones is the Falcons' franchise record holder in receiving yards (12,896), receptions (848), single-season receptions (136), single-season receiving yards (1,871), 100-yard games (58) and 1,000-yard seasons (seven). Jones, who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, has 50 catches for 804 yards and five touchdowns in seven career games against the Eagles, including a game-winning touchdown in 2019.
Now, he'll try to bring some of that to Philadelphia as the Eagles' potential No. 3 receiver behind Brown and DeVonta Smith.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Kenny Pickett can talk about the noise -- no matter where it comes from -- and the need to drown it out.
But Associated Press sports writer Will Graves believes the reality for the Steelers quarterback and offensive coordinator Matt Canada is that every week is going to be a referendum on their performance.
"Check that," Graves wrote. "Make it every quarter. Or maybe every drive. Or possibly every snap. At least until the Steelers (3-2) are able to find something even remotely close to consistency."
It took all of two plays for the boos to start on Sunday against Baltimore after a pair of running plays managed all of 4 yards. It took maybe three possessions -- all of which ended with punts -- before the "Fire Canada" chants popped up.
And while they eventually morphed into some form of almost bewildered "how did that happen" euphoria after the Steelers pulled out a 17-10 victory in which the Ravens played a willing accomplice, five games into a season of sizable expectations, Pickett remains a somewhat erratic enigma and Canada remains on the hottest of seats.
Pittsburgh somehow won despite gaining all of 88 yards in the first half. Despite Pickett sending passes high, low, behind and over intended receivers. Despite another game in which running back Najee Harris' legs furiously churned nowhere (37 yards on 14 carries).
Still, as Pickett pointed out, they found a way. The offense had 201 yards over the final 30 minutes, 80 of them coming on a game-winning drive in which Pickett opted to throw the ball up and let 6-foot-4 wide receiver George Pickens go and get it.
It was a glimmer of. ... Something. The issue for the Steelers is that those glimmers have too often looked like anomalies during Canada's two-plus seasons of calling the plays and Pickett's 17 NFL starts.
Pickett still has more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (13). His career quarterback rating is 77.3. Pickett says repeatedly all he cares about is winning, and his 10-7 record is respectable for someone thrown into the fire a month into his rookie season.
At some point, however, the Steelers are going to need to win games because of the offense, not in spite of it.
It's an ability the teams they claim to be chasing, the Kansas Cities and Buffaloes and Miamis of the world, can do seemingly at will, not just occasionally.
Not every team will come into Acrisure Stadium and basically say "here you go" to the hosts the way Cleveland and Baltimore did. Not every team will let T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith do whatever they want, seemingly whenever they want. At some point, Watt and Highsmith would also like the luxury of playing from ahead.
Finding a way to score 20 points a game would be a good starting point. Until that happens with any sense of regularity, the boos, the noise and the questions will persist.
Maybe Diontae Johnson would help.
Johnson was emphatic that he would play in the Week 7 game against the Los Angeles Rams when the Pittsburgh Steelers return from their bye.
"Hell yeah, I'm coming back," Johnson said. "I've been working my behind off these last three, four weeks. Today was one of those days to see how far I've come along. Everything looked great out there to them. I feel completely great and healthy. I would say I'm ready for Monday when we come back to start getting back to work."
Johnson has been on injured reserve since suffering a hamstring injury in the Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Johnson played just 26 snaps before exiting with the injury, recording three catches on six targets for 48 yards. He suffered the injury on his longest reception of the afternoon, a 26-yard catch-and-run early in the third quarter.
"I feel 100 percent right now," Johnson said. "The trainers, I appreciate them for just pushing me through that whole process, keeping my head level, not coming in here down and stuff like that. I always had a positive attitude when I came here, and I was ready to work. Whatever they threw at me, I was going to do what I had to do to get it done."
Because he's returning from injury, Johnson isn't sure if he'll spend the bye week working in Pittsburgh or get away for a few days.
While IR rules prevented him from playing in the Week 5 win against the Baltimore Ravens, Johnson said he wouldn't have been able to play in that game.
"I'd probably say I was probably like 85 [percent], but I wouldn't be able to give my full a 100 percent like I would," he said. "I'm there now though."
Though Johnson was the team's leading receiver a season ago with 882 yards, he didn't score a single touchdown. In Johnson's absence this season, the Steelers, who enter the bye atop the AFC North, have struggled to consistently move the ball and have only scored five passing touchdowns in five games. The Steelers' offense also ranks in the bottom 10 of passing yards through five games, with just 1,045 yards on 98 receptions.
"[I'm] adding that spark that we need," Johnson said, emphasizing his ability to pick up yards after catch. "Not saying that we don't have it, but like I said, just adding that spark, and once you add that spark, everybody else going to get their spark too.
"It's kind of everybody feeding off each other out there. So I know me and [Pickens] feed off each other out there. He'll make a play, I'll make a play. So I'm happy to get things back to where they used to be."
Johnson and running back Anthony McFarland Jr. returned to practice Monday. The Steelers have a 21-day window to either activate them to the 53-man roster, or they remain on the Reserve/Injured List the remainder of the year.
Also on the injury front. ... According to ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor, tight end Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) says he's going to play Sunday against the Rams, and said he would've been able to play if the Steelers had a game Week 6.
I'll have more on Johnson and Freiermuth via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski, Calvin Austin III
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, one day after three of their most important players left their loss to the Browns with various ailments, the San Francisco 49ers seemingly got some good news on the injury front.
On Monday afternoon, head coach Kyle Shanahan offered updates on injured receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder), running back Christian McCaffrey (oblique/rib) and left tackle Trent Williams (right ankle). While the 49ers are awaiting additional imaging on McCaffrey, Shanahan sounded optimistic on all three situations.
Shanahan said Samuel and Williams would be "day-to-day" this week as the 49ers prepare for Monday night's trip to Minnesota to play the Vikings. That comes after Samuel departed in the first quarter Sunday with a shoulder injury and did not return while Williams gritted through the game after spraining his ankle with 3:14 left in the opening quarter.
Shanahan said Williams' injury is not a high ankle sprain. McCaffrey's situation seems a bit more tenuous, as the Niners await further information before offering a diagnosis and a timeline to return. Asked whether McCaffrey could be in position to play through the injury with the use of a flak jacket, Shanahan said he wasn't sure.
"It's obviously a tougher position just because you get hit a lot more," Shanahan said. "But we've just got to see how it reacts. We've got to see exactly what's wrong with it too because we haven't got that back yet. We say oblique/rib, hopefully it's not both, but we've got to wait to see for sure."
On Sunday, it was unclear when exactly Samuel and McCaffrey got injured, but Shanahan offered some clarity on that as well.
Samuel's shoulder injury came on the first play from scrimmage, an 8-yard run by him on a jet sweep.
"He just took a shot on the shoulder," Shanahan said. "It didn't look overly big or anything. It just connected right. And so it got him after that. And if you watch him like the next eight plays, you could just tell the feeling was starting to go because he couldn't use his left arm. [He] tried to come back but just couldn't get feeling back in it. So we had to shut him down."
McCaffrey left the game in the third quarter but returned for one play -- a 6-yard run with just under three minutes left in the quarter -- before heading to the sideline and then the locker room. The Niners ruled out his return with 10:58 to play. The in and out made it harder to nail down when McCaffrey's injury occurred.
"He mentioned about four possible plays he thought he could have done it on," Shanahan said. "But we're not sure which one he did."
With McCaffrey out Sunday, the Niners turned to the combination of Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason in his place. Mitchell, in his first game back from a knee injury, had two carries for negative-3 yards. Mason had five attempts for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Shanahan indicated that Mason and Mitchell would both get opportunities if McCaffrey can't play against the Vikings. He also offered some optimism that McCaffrey could be available.
"Both of those guys have done very well," Shanahan said. "Elijah came back and practiced late last week on Thursday, so then he got really one true day of practice in and that's why JP got the first nod once Christian came out. But we've got two really good players there. And I know [running back Tyrion Davis-Price] is waiting for his opportunity also. Hopefully, Christian will be good to go this week, but if not we've got a group of backs we can rely on."
For what it's worth, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that McCaffrey, Samuel and Williams all have a chance to play against the Vikings.
I'll obviously have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow noted, San Francisco's high-powered offense that seemed unstoppable to begin the season looked awfully pedestrian after losing two key playmakers.
San Francisco (5-1) had scored at least 30 points in each of the first five games, but didn't come close to that against the Browns.
San Francisco was held to its lowest yard total in 104 regular-season games with Shanahan as coach. The Niners averaged only 3.91 yards per play (fourth lowest under Shanahan) and had a success rate of 34.5 percent (second lowest) as they struggled against Cleveland's stout defense.
Five of the Niners' first six drives after halftime netted no yards and no first downs with San Francisco going three-and-out four times and Brock Purdy throwing his first interception of the season.
Purdy had been perfect in his pro career, winning his first 10 regular-season starts and coming in with the highest passer rating (121.1) in league history for any quarterback through 10 games. But the Browns kept him off balance and he completed just 12 of 27 passes (44 percent) -- well below his league-leading average (72.1 percent) coming in.
"It's almost like we started shooting ourselves in the foot with just the little things, false starts, the operation and everything not being clean, getting lined up and being ready to play," Purdy said. "There's a delay of game, which is on me, so just little things we got to clean up."
The good news?
They'll have an extra day to get healthy and to do that clean up before traveling to Minnesota where they'll take on the Vikings on Monday Night Football. ...
One last note here. ... Jake Moody missed his first two kicks of the season. The third-round rookie was wide left on a 54-yard attempt in the first quarter and then wide right on the 41-yarder out in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. His predecessor, Robbie Gould, missed only two potential tying or winning field goals in the last minute of regulation or overtime in his six seasons in San Francisco.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Geno Smith said during his first season as the Seattle Seahawks' starting quarterback in 2022 that he would always be a "thumb pointer" as opposed to a finger pointer, following the advice he'd gotten from a coach at West Virginia about the importance of accountability.
After his two-interception performance in the Seahawks' 17-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Smith had both thumbs pointed squarely at himself.
"I felt like the guys deserved to win today," Smith said. "Obviously, I didn't do my best job today to get that done. So those are things that I put on myself. I lay it right at my feet, right on my shoulders, and I look forward to the next opportunity."
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reported, Smith and the Seahawks' offense moved the ball all afternoon -- outgaining the Bengals 381 yards to 214 -- but went 5-for-12 on third down, 0-for-2 on fourth down and 1-for-5 in the red zone to waste a brilliant outing by their defense.
After marching 75 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown on their opening drive, Seattle's other nine possessions (excluding a one-play drive at the end of the first half) ended with three punts, two field goals, two interceptions and a pair of turnovers on downs, the last one coming in the closing seconds with the game on the line.
On his first interception, with Seattle trailing 14-10 midway through the third quarter, Smith underthrew a tightly covered Jaxon Smith-Njigba on a wheel route near the goal line. According to ESPN Stats and Information, it was his first interception in the red zone as a Seahawk. He had thrown 22 touchdowns without an interception in the red zone since the start of last season, the most such TDs without a pick by any quarterback in that span.
"I just need to be better," Smith said. "Can't do that, especially in the red zone. Can't put the ball in harm's way. Like I said, the defense is playing a tremendous game. We got points right there. I've got to protect the ball. So I've got to be better."
Smith took the blame for his second interception -- which came early in the fourth quarter, with Seattle trailing 14-13 -- even though it looked as though DK Metcalf gave up on his route.
"It's on me," Smith said. "Just another chance for us to go down there and make plays and score points with our defense doing great. Just didn't do the right thing on that play. Those are things that are not characteristic of the way I've been playing and I know that I can be a lot better. Like I said, I need to look myself in the mirror and figure those things out, so I will."
Smith, who made the Pro Bowl in 2022 and was named AP Comeback Player of the Year, was off to another solid start before Sunday. He entered Week 6 with five touchdown passes to one interception over the Seahawks' first four games and ranked ninth in QBR during their 3-1 start.
Despite getting left tackle Charles Cross back from his three-game absence, the Seahawks allowed four sacks and 13 quarterback hits Sunday. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bengals pressured Smith 20 times, their most in a game since Week 7 of 2021.
However, some of that pressure was the result of Smith holding onto the ball, which was the case on a key play late in the game. Down 17-13 just ahead of the two-minute warning, Smith took a sack on a fourth-and-6 from the Bengals' 6-yard line.
"He'd love to get the ball out," head coach Pete Carroll said. "It's killing him. He knows."
Seattle's defense, at full strength for the first time this season, allowed touchdowns on both of the Bengals' opening drives before buckling down. Cincinnati's next eight possessions resulted in six punts, a Tre Brown interception and a field goal that was set up by Smith's second pick.
"As an offense, it really hurts," said Smith, who finished 27-of-41 for 323 yards and no touchdowns. "Especially as a quarterback, seeing those guys battle the way that they did. I think they only gave up like 50-something yards in the second half . For us [to get] two or three opportunities to go take the lead and for us not to do it, that's on me. That's really on me. Like I said, I've got to be better and I will be."
After the fourth-down sack, Seattle's defense forced a three-and-out to give Smith and the offense one more chance to win. They drove from their own 40 to Cincinnati's 9-yard line but couldn't get any farther, with Smith throwing incomplete on third down and then getting hit as he threw on fourth down. With Metcalf double-covered, Smith was looking for tight end Colby Parkinson on an out route.
"He did a great job of getting open," Smith said, "and I just didn't get it to him in time."
In addition to their second consecutive strong defensive showing, another silver lining for the Seahawks was that they didn't lose any ground in the NFC West to the San Francisco 49ers, who fell 19-17 to the Cleveland Browns. A brief cheer erupted in the Seahawks' locker room after Jake Moody's missed field goal sealed Cleveland's win.
The Seahawks host the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. In the meantime, Smith said he won't stew on this performance.
"You play long enough in this game, it'll happen," he said. "But you've got to flush it. You've got to move on to the next one. We've got a lot of football left to play. I believe in the type of player that I am. I know today isn't indicative of who I am as a player. A few mistakes that I'd love to have back, but sometimes that happens in the game. You've just got to flush it and move on."
Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Metcalf led Seattle caught four passes for 69 yards and briefly left the game with a hip injury. But he committed another costly 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness when he shoved a defender at the end of a play -- some 30 yards away from the action. He was also the intended target on what turned out to be Smith's second interception, but he stopped his route.
In a related note. ... Smith-Njigba had the most productive game of his rookie season Sunday with 48 receiving yards. One of his four catches converted a third down on the opening TD drive. "I thought he played a terrific game, by far his best game," Carroll said on his 710 AM radio show.
JSN played a season-high 53 snaps -- 20 more than he averaged Weeks 1-4.
That uptick may be tied to LT Charles Cross' return, which led to more three-WR sets with less of a need for extra TEs to help in pass protection.
As FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland notes, we often see teams make changes like this during their bye week, so this could be a trend that sticks. Smith-Njigba is available in half of leagues and is worth stashing in all formats if you can make room. ..
Kenneth Walker III rushed 19 times for 62 yards and a touchdown, adding three catches for 27 yards.
Per usual, Walker dominated the Seahawks' running back touches as Zach Charbonnet rushed two times for five yards. Walker also remained heavily involved near the end zone, punching in his sixth score of the season from one yard out.
It was his fourth touchdown from the one-yard line this season.
As Rotoworld suggests, even when the Seahawks' offense sputters, Walker is so involved near the goal line that he can still post RB1 numbers. He will remain a top-five fantasy option against the Cardinals.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
With the screen game sputtering, the deep-ball connection almost non-existent and the ground game once again stuck in neutral, Baker Mayfield said bluntly after the Bucs' 20-6 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, "We need to pick our s--- up."
"We sucked today," said Mayfield, who completed 19-of-37 passes for 206 yards and an interception for a total QBR of 22.9. "I sucked today, we sucked today -- it was awful. ... If we play like that, we're gonna lose every time. Defense and special teams did an amazing job yet again, and offense -- we just need to pick our s--- up."
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes, the Bucs (3-2) entered Week 6 in first place in the NFC South after a convincing 26-9 win over the New Orleans Saints in Week 4 before their bye week. But both Mayfield and head coach Todd Bowles said they felt they didn't handle it correctly. Bowles said he thought they looked "sluggish" even though they added in an extra practice Monday to account for any rust. Not to mention, they were at nearly full strength with Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans back after suffering a hamstring injury in week 4.
But Mayfield was just 4-of-10 targeting Evans and 2-of-7 targeting rookie Trey Palmer. The only consistent connection Sunday was Chris Godwin, whom Mayfield managed to hit on 6-of-7 tries for 77 yards.
Mayfield's first pass attempt to Evans, which happened on the second series, was tipped by defensive end Isaiah Buggs at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by cornerback Will Harris. It was just Mayfield's third interception of the season.
Kicker Chase McLaughlin (who finished 2 for 2) was the only Buc to score points, and Sunday marked the first game all season that Tampa failed to score a touchdown.
"They did a good job of passing some things off in the red zone," Mayfield said. "One of the plays, on second down in the red zone early in the game, on second-and-3, they wound up bringing pressure. Both Mike and Chris would have had a one-on-one, but they did a good job of bringing that pressure to get us out of it. There were definitely plays there that we just didn't have today."
By the numbers, Mayfield had a completion percentage of 48.1 against zone defense -- his second lowest-mark of the season -- and his throws were 22 percent off target on these attempts -- also his second-worst of the season, with his worst coming in their other loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.
The screen game, which has helped the Bucs overcome their run-game deficiencies (fourth worst at 78.8 yards per game), was not effective either, and Mayfield completed just 53.8 percent of passes of 5 yards or fewer.
Godwin said players on the offensive side of the ball need to "increase their intensity" and "understand the gravity of the situation" in order to become a dominant team and to help their defense.
"It's not going to be done by just saying it," Godwin said. "Talk is cheap. We have to go out there, and we really have to put the work in. I believe that we will do it."
While the Bucs struggled on virtually every down, it was most glaring deficiency was third down, where they have excelled at this season, particularly with Mayfield's knack for improvisation. Heading into Sunday, the Bucs had converted 47 percent of their third downs -- the sixth-best mark in the NFL. But against the Lions (5-1), they converted just 2-of-12 (17 percent).
"At a certain point, we've gotta get pissed off as an offense," Mayfield said. "We should be putting up a lot of points on the board. We talk about the standard of winning around here, but offensively, we need to look at it in a smaller picture. We should be putting up a lot more points than we have been. And so we need to be accountable with that, and it starts with me, and we'll get that going."
The good news?
With all four teams in the NFC South losing on Sunday, the Bucs retained first place in the division. They host Atlanta this week with an opportunity to bolster their early edge over the Falcons, Saints and winless Panthers.
Other notes of interest. ... After showing signs of improvement earlier in the season, the running game has regressed. The Bucs averaged just 2.9 yards per carry while being held to 46 yards on 16 attempts Sunday, Tampa Bay dropped to 29th in the NFL in rushing offense at 78.8 yards per game.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Rachaad White continues to play roughly 75 percent of offensive snaps each week, but he wasn't given many opportunities.
He ran the ball seven times for 26 yards. He had run the ball at least twice as many times in every other game this season. The Buccaneers started the game focusing on the pass. They threw on 10 of their 14 plays in the first quarter. White ran the ball three times in the first quarter to one run by Ke'Shawn Vaughn. The two split carries in the second quarter with three each.
Whatever the case, White has been held to under 4.0 yards per carry in four of five games this season. They were facing one of the best teams at stopping running backs, Jahnke feels like this game seemed like another step closer to Tampa Bay potentially trying someone else at running back in the run game. ...
Finally. ... The Bucs didn't report any significant injuries during the game. Bowles said Mayfield had a left hand contusion, but X-rays were negative.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
Ryan Tannehill suffered a high right ankle sprain during Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, putting his availability in the coming weeks in question, sources told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Turron Davenport on Monday.
The Titans are on a bye week, which the team will use for backups Malik Willis and Will Levis to throw and prepare in case Tannehill is unable to face the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 29.
Speaking earlier Monday, head coach Mike Vrabel said the ankle injury is similar to the one Tannehill initially suffered last season.
"Ryan will get treatment around the clock," Vrabel said. "This will be a big week to see how he progresses and then we'll make a decision on his availability next week."
Last season's injury caused Tannehill to miss two games and eventually required surgery after he reinjured the ankle -- landing him on injured reserve.
On Sunday, Tannehill injured his right ankle and was taken out in the third quarter of the 24-16 loss to the Ravens.
Tennessee hosts the Falcons when it returns from the bye in Week 8. Vrabel said Tannehill will be the starter if he's healthy.
Willis came on in relief for Tannehill against the Ravens and completed 4 of his 5 pass attempts for 74 yards. Willis has been the backup quarterback all season, with 2023 second-round pick Levis serving as the No. 3.
Vrabel didn't make it clear who would start if Tannehill is not available.
"It will be one of those two guys if Ryan can't go," Vrabel said. "We'll see how they continue to practice.”
No matter who's at quarterback, the Titans have lost 11 of their past 13 games and are still trying to fix the same issues.
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, the offense can't stay on the field or find the end zone enough. The revamped offensive line can't protect a quarterback, and a defense giving up just 19 1/2 points a game can't force enough turnovers.
Walker added the Titans have to figure out a better way to use both three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry and rookie Tyjae Spears.
Henry had their biggest play on a 63-yard run that was his longest in 24 games, and he also had a 15-yard touchdown run. Spears had their second-longest offensive play, a 48-yard catch-and-run giving the Titans a chance to make it a one-score game in the final minutes.
Yet, Henry stayed on the sideline, even on first-and-goal at the Ravens 1, and had two fewer snaps than Spears despite rushing 12 times for 97 yards with two catches for 16 yards receiving. Spears ran four times for 15 yards and had the one big catch. ...
Second-year receiver Kyle Philips has three fumbles in only six games after being a fifth-round pick out of UCLA last year with a combined nine punt returns. The Titans like his explosiveness, highlighted by a 46-yard return in the four games before an injury ended his rookie season.
But in his second game off injured reserve Sunday, Philips fumbled a punt that Baltimore recovered at the Titans 11 with a second left until halftime and got a field goal off the turnover. ...
On the injury front. ... Beyond Tannehill, rookie tight end Josh Whyle and wide receiver Chris Moore both flew home with the Titans after being knocked out of the game with concussions. Vrabel said both likely are in the concussion protocol. Vrabel said second-year receiver Treylon Burks (left knee) should be able to return after missing three straight games.
So the goals in the coming week are clear: Heal up. Prep Levis or Willis to start against Atlanta, and decide whether the Titans should trade for draft capital by the NFL deadline Oct. 31.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 October 2023
After watching film of the Washington Commanders' victory at Atlanta that ended their three-game losing streak, head coach Ron Rivera had one word to describe quarterback Sam Howell's play: Efficient.
Howell threw for 151 yards and three touchdowns and did not have any interceptions. On the other side of the ball, the defense forced three Falcons turnovers to get Washington back to .500 at 3-3.
Put those things together, and the Commanders may have found their winning recipe -- for their next game this Sunday at the New York Giants and beyond.
"Every phase did what they were supposed to do, needed to do," Rivera said Monday. "We have a little momentum ... If you can maintain the momentum and keep the excitement going and energy levels up, the players really feed off of it."
Washington might not be able to count on Daniel Jones or Tyrod Taylor throwing three picks like Atlanta's Desmond Ridder did, but Howell not giving the ball away is crucial to stacking up wins as the midway point of the season approaches. The Commanders are 2-0 when committing fewer turnovers than they force.
Rivera lauded Howell for smart decision-making in his seventh NFL start.
"He protected the football, delivered some very catchable balls," Rivera said. "Protecting the football and making the decisions that he did, I thought he handled (situations) very well."
Washington opened as a 1 1/2-point favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook, coming off the Giants losing at Buffalo to drop to 1-5. This looks like another winnable game, if the Commanders can follow their Atlanta blueprint.
"We have an opportunity to go to 4-3 if we go out and play the football we're capable of," Rivera said. "It's a good opportunity to build on the success we had, but we also got to be smart and understand that even though we went out and did our jobs, we got to pay attention and focus in on and continue to focus in on the details of our job, do those things better, do the little things better because we had a lot of mistakes, a lot of little things that can be corrected."
For all of Howell's efficiency, he was still sacked five times by the Falcons, who were tied for the league's lowest total coming in, with five all season. Starting left tackle Charles Leno was out for personal reasons, but some of the blame rests with Howell, who has been sacked a league-high 34 times.
"There was a couple of times, obviously, I'd like to see him get the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker and not take the hits or sacks that he did," Rivera said.
According to Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno, the next step for the Commanders is to not look past the Giants, with the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles up after that at home on Oct. 29. The Commanders should learn from losing at home to Chicago in Week 5 and not take New York lightly. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Late-Round Fantasy Football's JJ Zachariason noted, Brian Robinson Jr. kicked off the season strong, scoring 13 and 28 PPR points.
He's been pretty mediocre since then, averaging just 10.5 PPR points per contest.
A big problem for him is Antonio Gibson, who's been playing almost exclusively a receiving role for Washington's backfield this season. Robinson did hit a season high 50 percent route participation in Week 6, but he's yet to see a double-digit percentage target share in a game this season.
Zachariason added: "Robinson should be fine as an RB3 or low-end RB2 with spiked weeks, but if someone's willing to pay up after a reasonable Week 6 outing, I'd be open to trading him away. ..."
In a related note, PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes that rookie RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. played as many offensive snaps in this game as the first five weeks combined. He ran four times in the second half, which isn't much, but Gibson has only run four or more times once this season. ...
Curtis Samuel scored a touchdown for a third-straight game. He was second on the team in targets (four), receptions (four) and receiving yards (42).
Samuel has posted a respectable 19.6 percent target rate over the last three weeks. He has a 15.5 percent target share on the season.
Samuel has lined up 69 percent of the time in the slot, so he could be put into fantasy lineups specifically against defenses that have given up a lot of receiving yards to slot receivers.
Meanwhile, Jahan Dotson continue to disappoint. As Zachariason notes, he has an identical target share to Samuel this season, but he's been far, far less productive.
And after seeing target shares of just 10.4 percent and 4.8 percent over his last two games, respectively, it's getting pretty tough to hold onto him. ...
Finally. ... Jamison Crowder is making the most of his return to Washington solely as the team's punt returner. His 61-yard return at Atlanta was the longest the organization has had since Crowder's 89-yard touchdown in 2016.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley, Dax Milne
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates